The psychological warfare Michael Schumacher waged on his teammates has been revealed by his ex-Mercedes partner, Nico Rosberg, who had to fight to even use the toilet.
Schumacher was renowned as a ruthless competitor who didn’t need to make friends on his way to winning a record seven world titles with Ferrari and Benetton.
He quit F1 at the end of 2006 but came out of retirement in 2010 with Mercedes, where he “was like God”, leaving Rosberg in a dogfight both on and off the track.
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Rosberg told F1 Unscripted this month how he struggled to be heard within the team, and even had to compete with Schumacher to use the toilet, which the F1 legend used as a tool for his unique brand of mind games.
“There are so many examples, the Monaco bathroom for example,” Rosberg said, speaking about how Schumacher was a “psychological warrior”.
“Five minutes before qualifying, there’s only one bathroom in the garage. He knows that I’m standing outside.
“I’m knocking like crazy, telling whoever is in there to please get out because I’m panicking, I need to pee before qualifying.
“He’s in there, just looking at his watch, chilling, knowing he’s going to create more and more stress in my mind, and then with one minute to go, he walks out all chilled out, and is like, ‘Oh sorry, I didn’t know you were there!’
“By this time I’m in full panic mode.”
But that was merely the tip of the iceberg.
Rosberg said the games went on, citing how Schumacher would always walk around topless in the engineering room, flaunting his six-pack.
“It was another statement of strength to impress everybody who is there,” Rosberg said. “His body was pretty sculptured. It just went on and on. There were infinite examples like that.”
Rosberg also joined Mercedes in 2010 following the team’s takeover of Brawn GP, which won with Jenson Button the previous year.
He was set to be partnered by Nick Heidfeld until Schumacher announced his return, seemingly out of nowhere, to catch Rosberg by surprise.
“The name Schumacher was not even on the horizon, no-one was even talking about that,” Rosberg remembered. “And then suddenly Ross [Brawn] calls me and says, ‘By the way, your teammate is not going to be Jenson Button or Nick Heidfeld, it’s going to be Michael Schumacher’.
“I was like oh my God, craziest thoughts, that I would have no chance, that the whole team would go against me, that Michael would manipulate his way through.
“And also I don’t even know, ‘Can I keep up with him? He’s the greatest of all-time, do I even have a chance?’ That was pretty crazy moment.”
Schumacher’s presence in the Mercedes garage was larger than life. In Rosberg’s words, he “was like God in the team”.
When it came to strategy meetings, Rosberg said he felt like a ghost in the room and that the team would only address him.
“So I then addressed that to the strategist that was holding those meetings, and we reflected on that together, and it really had a big impact, and from then on, strategy meetings were much better then for me,” Rosberg said.
“I felt much more comfortable, and I did get that attention from him just by showing my invulnerability in the end, and expressing my feelings.”
For all the gamesmanship, Rosberg went on to beat Schumacher in all three of their seasons as teammates. He also claimed Mercedes’ first win in F1 in over 50 years at the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, and eventually became a world champion in 2016.
Schumacher only claimed one podium in his second coming, but at 43 years old, he was the oldest to do so since Jack Brabham in 1970. He retired for good at the end of 2012.