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Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen are the current drivers dominating Formula 1, but both are chasing down the records set by the legendary Michael Schumacher.

No one dominated the sport quite like the German icon, especially while he drove for Ferrari in the early 2000s. He was unstoppable even in sub-par cars.

Schumacher began his career with Jordan in 1991 and retired from his first race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. Then he went on to win seven world driver’s championships with Benetton and Ferrari.

Some of his moves on the track were ruthless and competitive to a fault, but there’s no doubt he was one of the fastest drivers ever. Through it all, he managed to secure countless records that have stood for over a decade.

How Michael Schumacher set up his car to dominate

michael schumacher driving his benetton at the 1994 spanish grand prix
Michael Schumacher driving his Benetton at the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix | Mike Hewitt/ALLSPORT Getty Images

Michael Schumacher had a unique way of setting up his car.

Fundamentally, he would carry as much speed as possible into a corner, turn late into the apex, straighten the car, and accelerate out of the corner. It sounds basic, but when factoring in that he rarely took his foot off the throttle, it suddenly becomes more difficult.

He did this by setting up his car to enact more oversteer. While this was nearly impossible for other drivers to handle, he had the reaction speed to swing the car around a corner by constantly blipping the throttle.

Over time, other legendary drivers tried to drive Schumacher’s car, but to no avail. He seemed to have a sixth sense of where the grip was. The car would stall like an airplane and spin like a top, but he could control the slide and position his car perfectly for the corner exit.

Ferrari had the tire advantage

Michael Schumacher driving his f2002 at the hockenheimring
Michael Schumacher drives the #1 Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro Ferrari F2002 Ferrari at the Hockenheimring, Hockenheim, Germany | Darren Heath/Getty Images

Tires were another advantage for Michael Schumacher.

In the early 2000s, when he was dominating in his Ferrari, teams could pick between Bridgestone and Goodyear tires. The former, as it turned out, catered to Ferrari vehicles and thus tailored the tires to fit Schumacher’s driving style since he was the most high-profile and successful driver.

What changed after Michael Schumacher retired?

michael schumacher mercedes crash at hockenheim
Michael Schumacher stands after crashing during the second practice session at the Hockenheimring circuit | Thomas Kienzle/AFP/Getty Images

Michael Schumacher first retired from the sport after the 2006 season, two years after his Ferrari dominance had come to an end.

In 2010, he returned to usher in the new Mercedes AMG team, which replaced Brawn GP from the previous year. He competed there for three years before retiring for a second time.

His races at Mercedes weren’t nearly as explosive as they were at Ferrari, most likely because modern F1 cars prefer much more planted rear ends. That made Schumacher’s legendary setups archaic, not effective. 

There are different schools of thought about the best F1 driver of all time. Many of the fastest racing drivers prefer oversteer, but few had the reaction speed of Schumacher, which his setup essentially required.


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