Michael Schumacher becomes the new Audemars Piguet icon
An authentic living legend with his seven world championship titles, Schumacher holds the most prestigious records in motor racing. His 68 pole positions, 91 victories and 154 podium finishes on all the world’s major tracks make him the greatest racing driver of all time. After his return to competition in 2010, next season, we will see him competing in the 18th world championship of his incomparable career!
How could you fail to catch the motor-racing bug when your father Rolf works on the go-kart track in Kerpen and your mother Elisabeth runs the brasserie. At a very early age, “Schumi” as his fans call him, hit the track on his own, competing in his first race at just four years old. His very first press clipping dating from 1973 refers to him as “small but fast”. In 1983, he earned his German go-kart racing license and the incredible adventure truly began. After winning the German junior championship in 1984 and 1985, he came third in the European go-kart championships in 1986, and then won both the German and European championship titles in 1987. In 1988, he made his debut in single-seater racing, competing with the Eufra team in the Formula Ford 1600 championship. In parallel, he took part in the German Formula König circuit, winning 9 out of 10 races.
That same year, Schumacher had a chance to test drive a Formula 3 car for the WTS team, was runner-up in the German championship in the discipline and snapped up the title in 1990, with five wins to his credit. Quite logically, on August 20th 1991, the door of the supreme motor-racing category swung open to admit the champion who was to win an unbroken string of successes right through until the end of 2006, when he decided to quit the discipline.
Nonetheless, the racing virus was definitely still in his blood. After a three-year absence, his fierce determination drove the seven-time champion to resume competition and to vie once again with a field of sharp young contenders. On December 23rd 2009, Michael Schumacher announced his return to the forefront at the wheel of the Mercedes GP Petronas Formula One Team, alongside Ross Brawn with whom he had gained his 7 world championship titles. This exceptionally gifted driver has lost nothing of his fiery spirit and his inimitable aura. In fact, his comeback proves an unparalleled passion for his sport and a courageous readiness for taking risks. After a tough start to the season, Schumacher and his team finished with respectable results that herald a promising 2011 season. Schumacher excels in adversity, which releases his virtuosity and enables him to express his true genius. But above all, he insists that: “victory stems primarily from team work and team spirit”.
All pilots share a determination to beat time because, as Michael Schumacher points out: “two minutes are an eternity for those of us who are accustomed to fighting for tenths of a second”. He is fascinated by watchmaking and an acknowledged connoisseur who has been collecting timepieces for a number of years, as he explains: “my friend Jean Todt introduced me to fine mechanical watches from Audemars Piguet, which I like to compare with racing cars because of their numerous common denominators including high-tech materials, cutting-edge R&D developments, and optimised mechanical performance. I admire the incredible work of the teams in Le Brassus and Le Locle who give shape to magnificent watches featuring ingenious technology and daring designs, yet without ever losing sight of horological traditions.”
Above and beyond a passion for watchmaking craftsmanship and expertise, Audemars Piguet and Michael Schumacher also upholds the same values, as confirmed by the two parties’ commitment to charity work and to supporting major endeavours. In 1992, Audemars Piguet created a foundation dedicated to preserving forest areas around the world, as well as to raising awareness among upcoming generations regarding the importance of their conservation, and consistently donates part of the proceeds from its sales to funding various environmental projects. Michael Schumacher also supports a number of associations. He has his own foundation through which he has been able to provide aid to victims of the floods in East Germany or the Tsunami. In 1996, he became a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for the Education of Children in Need. Strongly involved in his mission, he has funded and organised a number of events for underprivileged children. As a benefactor of the ICM Brain and Spinal Cord institute for several years now, he uses his image to benefit this internationally reputed research centre: “Those who are privileged in life owe it to themselves to help those who are less fortunate, and particularly those who suffer”. In fact, all his participations at the Race of Champions are for the benefit of ICM and he proudly wears the Logo on his racing suit. This particular commitment is shared by Audemars Piguet which, at the 2009 Gstaad Classic, auctioned watch N°1 of the limited series specially created for this occasion and donated the entire proceeds from this sale to ICM.
For Audemars Piguet, the world of motor sports is well-known territory. Having been involved for several years now in historical car rallies such as the National Classic Tour in Belgium, the Gstaad Classic in Switzerland and the Tour Auto in France, the watch manufacturer’s ambassadors also include three other racing drivers: Rubens Barrichello, Jarno Trulli and Sébastien Buemi. Thrilled to reinforce the Audemars Piguet presence in the motorsports world, CEO Philippe Merk emphasised the qualities of this exceptionally popular and talented athlete: “Michael Schumacher is not only the greatest racing driver of all time, he is also a big-hearted, discreet and altruistic individual who dedicates his reputation to great causes. An iconic figure, he embodies strength, determination, as well as a passion for challenges and for competition. It is with a blend of elegance and humility that he will wear our Royal Oak Offshore, the undisputed reference model in the field of prestige sports”.