Michael Schumacher burst on to the Formula One scene in 1991, making an immediate impression. In his F1 debut as a replacement driver with the Jordan team he equaled the team's season-best qualifying position with seventh place, but was forced to retire from the actual race in the first lap. The qualifying performance was enough to make Benetton sit up and take notice. Benetton essentially poached Schumacher from Jordan after that first race, starting a huge legal battle, which was ultimately worth it for the team.
It was with the Benetton team that Michael won the first of his seven world titles in 1994, following up with another championship the next season. At the end of the 1995 season, however, he made the decision to leave for a new challenge with Formula One's most historic team, Ferrari. The team had been experiencing several seasons of poor performances, but it took Schumacher just one season to have them back to competitive ways. It takes him until 2000 before he brought the driver's championship title to Ferrari and then went on to win the next four seasons with pure dominance.
In 2005 and 2006 his performances waned, leaving him in third and second place in the drivers' standings, respectively. Having been knocked off the top of the mountain by younger drivers, he decided it was time to retire and left at the end of 2006. Schumacher remained with Ferrari in a consultant capacity for the next few years though, so he didn't really leave the sport.
The lure of the sport eventually coaxed him back into the car in 2010, with a drive in the Mercedes team. Previously known as Braun-Mercedes, the team had won the 2009 season impressively, so Michael may be forgiven for thinking he would be coming back with a top-flight team. This was not the case, as Mercedes performed badly in 2010 and Schumacher could not recapture the magic.
In 2011, Mercedes improved and Michael Schumacher produced several impressive performances to remind the field that he is one of the greatest of all time. The question now remains: will Schumacher, in what could be one of, if not the last seasons of his career, win the title one more time? Michael undoubtedly has the experience and the skill to beat any driver in the field. At 42, however, he is one of the oldest drivers in the field and does not have the same fitness he had when he was at his prime. Mercedes finished fourth in the constructor's championship in 2011 and Michael was seventh in the drivers' standings.
It will take a serious improvement from both the car and Schumacher to overcome the top three teams and the six men who beat him last season. Of those six drivers ahead of him, four are themselves former champions. Until the first wheel is turned in anger no one can say for sure how well Michael will do, but every driver in the field knows that he is a legend and should never be counted out of contention.