Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has described Michael Schumacher as one of the fathers of the team’s success in F1. Schumacher returned to F1 from retirement in 2010, spending three years at the Silver Arrows alongside Nico Rosberg.
He retired for the second time at the end of the 2012 season, as Lewis Hamilton joined the German manufacturer. And from 2014 onwards, Mercedes has dominated, winning every championship since.
Schumacher hasn’t been seen in public since his skiing accident in late 2013. The extent of his injuries remain private, and on Thursday, Schumacher turned 50 - bringing in comments from the current Mercedes chief.
“Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years," said Wolff. "There is no other driver like him and his vast experience contributed tremendously in the development of our team.
"I remember when I first met Michael back in 2012, it was on a flight from Zürich to Singapore," the Austrian continued. "He was sitting next to me and asked me if I was up for a game of backgammon. I think that I'm a decent backgammon player, but he absolutely crushed me in the first two rounds because I was so star-struck.
"Once I was over that, my game improved, and we ended up playing and talking for the entire flight. We had a really good and honest conversation and when we landed it felt like I had known him for much longer than I actually did."
Schumacher remains the most successful driver in F1's history, something that Wolff hailed, stating the German took F1 to a new level: "Michael has had a tremendous impact on Formula 1," he said. "Not only did he set an incredible record - a record that is yet to be beaten - but he also shaped and changed the sport forever.
"As a driver, Michael took Formula One 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."
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing