Michael Schumacher is widely regarded as one of the two or three greatest – if not THE greatest – drivers ever to have lived. But when he joined the legendary Ferrari Formula One team in 1996, he surely did not imagine that it would take five years for him to win a championship with them.
Burdened with a truly terrible car for his first years with the team, Schumacher struggled to make an impression. It was only when conditions were terrible that he was able to make an impression – such as the wet spanish Grand Prix of 1996, when he made fools of the rest of the field, and won the race by over a minute in a car that had no business being anywhere near the front of the field.
In 1998 and 1999 he was closer, but the car was not quite there in 1998, and in 1999, he suffered a serious injury, breaking his leg at the British Grand Prix. Mika Hakkinen, the flying finn, took the world title in both of those years.
And so, on this day, October 8th, 2000, Schumacher turned up at the Japanese Grand Prix. Starting on pole position, with Hakkinen, his closest rival, alongside him, Schumacher needed to win to secure the championship.
He turned in a masterful drive, crossing the line two seconds ahead of Hakkinen, and winning his third world championship, and Ferrari’s first in two decades.
Schumacher would go on to win four more titles for Ferrari. He left the team in 2006. They have won just one more in that time.
Michael Schumacher, a Ferrari world champion for the first time, on this day, October 8th, 2000.