Michael Schumacher hailed as a 'founding father' of Mercedes' F1 dominance

Credit: PA

Mercedes have hailed Michael Schumacher as one of the "founding fathers" for their recent success.

Lewis Hamilton last year celebrated his fifth world championship, and his fourth racing for the Silver Arrows, and the team wrapped up their fifth consecutive drivers' and constructors' title double.

Schumacher is 50 on Thursday, and the sporting world joined forces in paying tribute to the driver not seen in public since his skiing accident five years ago.

The German, a winner of a record seven Formula One championships, came out of retirement in 2010 for a three-season spell with Mercedes, before he was eventually replaced by Hamilton.

Mercedes' Team Principle Toto Wolff. Credit: PA

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: "Michael is one of the founding fathers of the success we have had in the last five years. 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."

Hamilton is now the closest driver to matching Schumacher's records. The Briton is two championships and 18 race victories shy of the German's hauls.

"Michael has had a tremendous impact on Formula One," added Wolff. "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."

Schumacher won seven World Championships in his F1 career most of whom were for Ferrari. Credit: PA

Schumacher's medical condition has been held a closely-guarded secret since he fell and hit his head while skiing on the French Alps in December, 2013.

His wife Corinna posted a rare update on his health ahead of his landmark birthday, ensuring that the family are doing everything humanly possible to help him.

On Thursday, Schumacher's daughter Gina also published a short message to her Instagram page, writing: "Happy Birthday to the best Dad", accompanied with three pictures, including one of her father ahead of his first F1 race for Jordan in 1991.