Bartels began his career in the early 1980s in karting. He won the 1985 Teningen the Pop 100 senior championships. He was in the late eighties alongside Michael Schumacher as one of the great hopes of German motorsport, his manager at the time was Keke Rosberg.
After two successful years in Formula Ford 1988 Bartels went a step higher in the Formula 3, where he was also two years on the road and achieved positions 4 and 5 in the championship final settlement. From 1990 to 1993 Bartels drove 3000 European Championship in the formula. In 1990 he moved in parallel in the World Sportscar Championship at the start, in 1991, he tried as team-mate Mika Hakkinen also unsuccessfully four times a Lotus - Judd to qualify for a Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Then Bartels moved from the Formula cars and in the touring car scene. Here he won in 1994 immediately the Independents' Trophy for the German Touring Car Championship. Also in the following years remained Bartels with his employer Alfa Romeo DTM faithful until this disbanded in late 1996 after the withdrawal Alfas.
As for many was the successor for the Bartels Super Tourenwagen Cup and so he went in 1997 with Opel, Peugeot 1998 and 1999 with Audi in the STW. In the latter season, he was also able to win the famous Macau Grand Prix.
When the new DTM, the German Touring Car Masters in 2000 launched, the now experienced touring car driver Michael Bartels was again there. He moved back to Opel and drove three more years in the popular German Touring Car Championship. He also won in both 2000 with a Porsche 996 GT3 and 2001 on the Chrysler Viper GTS -R, the 24-hour race on the Nürburgring.
2001 and 2003 drove Bartels in the V8 -Star race series. In his first season he was second overall on first try, and in 2003 he scored third overall.
2004 Bartels moved into the GT sports. Together with Uwe Alzen he drove in the FIA GT on a Saleen S7 -R for the Vitaphone Racing Team, which was then under special support by Konrad Motorsport. Bartels and Alzen together won three races, parted but after the season.
Bartels and his Vitaphone Racing Team, where he is team manager and driver until today, changed the vehicle and entered 2005 with two Maserati MC12. Bartels and his new team- mate Timo Scheider won two races, including the 24 -hour race in Spa- Francorchamps, where they were supported by Eric van de Poele. At the end of the season the two Germans in the drivers' title slipped by one point, but the team was Vitaphone Racing title win.
After it moved Scheider back to DTM, the Pirelli test driver Andrea Bertolini and development was new colleague of Bartels for the year 2006. The duo won three races, again also the classic in Spa. This season it was enough for Bartels also the title in the championship, along with Bertolini he stood at the end of the year at the top of the table.
Vitaphone Racing team changed for the year 2007 on Michelin tires, which is why the Pirelli driver Bertolini had to leave the team. New partner of Bartels was this time the Italian Thomas Biagi. After Bartels had to undergo at the beginning of the season surgery, Biagi occurred in the first two races with other partners and thus had at season's end more points on the board and took the drivers' title alone. But Bartels scored on his return still a victory of the season at home in Oschersleben with Biagi.
In 2008 was again another driver on the side of Michael Bartels. Andrea Bertolini came back to Vitaphone Racing, Pirelli had now pulled out of the FIA GT and Bertolini was thus free from contracts. Bartels / Bertolini joined their successful the 2006 season to seamlessly and won two races and the title of the FIA GT Championship. The race in Spa -Francorchamps was a reappearance under the victories.
Known to the public was Bartels 1992 as the significant other of Steffi Graf. He was until 1999 a relationship with her. Michael Bartels is currently living with his girlfriend in Monte Carlo. He is committed to the promotion of young talent in motor racing.