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Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher is a very successful German Formula One driver, born on January 3, 1969 in Hürth (close to Cologne).

He made his debut in 1991 as a replacement driver for the Jordan[?] team. For the next race following his debut, he was signed on by Benetton-Ford. He won the Drivers' Championship title with Benetton in 1994 and 1995.

For 1996 he signed a contract with Ferrari and has become one of the most successful drivers in history. In the 2000 season he won the first Drivers' title for Ferrari since 1979. Next year, on the way to his fourth title, he had almost completely rewritten the F1 record books, breaking Alain Prost's record for the most wins. In a dominant 2002, he easily took his fifth world title, equalling the record set by Juan-Manuel Fangio.

Since the 1994 death of Ayrton Senna, Schumacher has been widely regarded as the fastest driver in Formula 1. However, his reputation in his early days in Formula One was decidedly chequered. His clear skill was combined with a tendancy to crash into his rivals, in a manner viewed by many (but by no means all) observers as deliberate attempts to take them out of the race - an act widely regarded in Formula One as not only bad sportsmanship but incredibly dangerous in fragile, super-fast open wheelers. The most infamous examples were in 1994, where his crash with Damon Hill in the last race of the year in Adelaide ensured his championship win, and 1997 where he swerved into the path of Jacques Villeneuve.

In latter years, however, his success with Ferrari, bringing to an end a success drought for the most widely and emotionally-followed team, moderation of his on-track tactics, and a more relaxed public persona have rehabilitated Schumacher's image for many fans of the sport.

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