The race was only seconds old when a crash took out four drivers, including Romain Grosjean, one of the pre-race favorites.
Schumacher appeared to nudge his Mercedes into Grosjean as they jostled for position, sending Grosjean's Lotus spinning sideways.
Pastor Malonado's Williams ran into Pedro de la Rosa's HRT and both went out, while Schumacher continued. Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi, whose Sauber was also damaged, failed to restart after making a pit stop.
-- Reported by the Associated Press