Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 boss Toto Wolff has paid tribute to Michael Schumacher on the seven-time world champion’s 50th birthday, calling him one of the “founding fathers” behind the team’s current dominance of the sport.
Schumacher, who was born on 3 January 1969, claimed a record seven titles for Benetton and Ferrari, before coming out of retirement to join the Mercedes F1 team when it was launched in 2010.
He drove for the squad for three seasons before retiring again in 2012. He was replaced by Lewis Hamilton, who has since gone on to claim four world titles with the team, which has also won the past five constructors’ championships.
Schumacher suffered a ‘traumatic brain injury’ in a skiing accident in December 2013, and continues to recover from his injuries in private at his home in Switzerland.
Wolff, who joined the Mercedes F1 team in late 2012, said: “Michael has had a tremendous impact on F1. He shaped and changed the sport forever. As a driver, he took F1 to a whole new level with his attention to detail and his technical knowledge. He did everything with great determination, from his engineering debriefs to his physical training, and was always searching for new ways to improve his on-track performance.
“Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years. There is no other driver like him and his vast experience contributed tremendously in the development of our team. He played a crucial role when we rejoined F1 and was one of the people who laid the foundation for our future success.”
Schumacher’s family has launched a new app featuring a ‘virtual museum’ for his 50th birthday, and also issued a rare public statement, saying: “You can be sure that he is in the very best of hands and that we are doing everything humanly possible to help him.
“Please understand if we are following Michael's wishes and keeping such a sensitive subject as health, as it has always been, in privacy. At the same time we say thank you very much for your friendship and wish you a healthy and happy year.”