Statistically, Michael Schumacher is the greatest F1 driver ever. But with machine-like ability comes cold, sometimes violent, calculation. With Schumacher returning to F1, other drivers need to be afraid. Very afraid.
Two major controversies hang over Schumacher's record-breaking career as a driver. Both involve collisions, in one case arguably intentional and in another, officially intentional. Both ultimately decided championships. Assuming that both were intentional, as this Damon Hill fan does, they represent a level of violent aggression that's unprecedented in modern racing.
1994 Australian Grand Prix
Going into the 1994 Australian Grand Prix, the last race of the season, Schumacher led Damon Hill in the Driver's Championship by just one point. Leading the race on lap 35, Schumi crashed into a wall. The extent of the damage this impact caused to his Benetton is unknown. At the next corner, as Hill went to pass, the two collided and Schumacher's car flew into the air on two wheels, immediately disabling it. Hill pitted, where it was discovered that his Williams had suffered irreparable damage.
FIA ruled the incident a "racing incident" and brought no sanction against Schumacher, gifting him his first championship.
Many spectators and participants were enraged by the incident, most notably former Motorcycle World Champion Barry Sheene who attacked Schumacher during a live interview later in the race.
Even more controversial was the incident at Jerez in 1997. The circumstances are so similar it's eerie. Again, Schumacher led another racer by one point in the Driver's Championship going into the last race of the season. On lap 48, as Jacques Villeneuve passed him in the Dry Sac corner, Schumacher deliberately rammed his Ferrari into the side of Villeneuve's Williams. Schumacher misjudged the impact, disabling his own vehicle immediately and only causing minor damage to the Williams. Villeneuve would go on to limp home to third place, winning the championship.
Two weeks later, FIA revoked Schumi's 2nd place championship ranking, disqualifying him from the season and saying, "the manoeuvre was an instinctive reaction and although deliberate not made with malice or premeditation. It was a serious error."
Schumacher is the only driver in the history of the sport to be disqualified from a World Championship. Replacing Felippe Massa, who is recovering from severe injuries sustained last weekend, Schumacher will return to F1 racing on 23 August. We'd give him a wide berth.