Motorsport boss Toto Wolff has credited Michael Schumacher as a "founding father" of Mercedes' current era of success on his 50th birthday.
The seven-time Formula 1 champion came out of retirement at the start of 2010 as the German manufacturer bought the Brawn GP team and together with Ross Brawn the pair helped rebuild the Brackley-based operation.
Though Schumacher would retire again at the end of 2012, Wolff is sure the success Mercedes has had with Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg since the hybrid era started in 2014 wouldn't have been possible without Michael's input.
"Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years," the Austrian declared. "There is no other driver like him and his vast experience contributed tremendously in the development of our team.
"He played a crucial role when we rejoined F1 and was one of the people who laid the foundation for our future success. We're extremely grateful for everything he did for us."
Wolff then went on to talk about his own experience with Schumacher, recalling the first time they met.
"I remember when I first met Michael back in 2012, it was on a flight from Zürich to Singapore," he said. "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."
Widely considered as the greatest driver of all time, the Mercedes boss believes Schumacher's legacy in F1 goes far beyond just his remarkable achievements.
"Michael has had a tremendous impact on Formula 1," he stated. "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 F1 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."
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