Daily Archives: October 4, 2012

Schumacher will always be remembered as F1′s most elite driver

As I said in the previous article, Michael Schumacher was a huge inspiration for me, and single-handedly got me interested in Formula 1. However, as I got older, I started to notice the darker side behind the legend, and wondered whether my faith in him was justified.

Hundreds of hours on YouTube later, the picture was more clear. Schumacher was fast – no doubt about that – but there was a vicious side to him, where he would strike out at those who impeded him, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally.

So do we remember him as an erratic, dangerous driver who would take out another driver just to gain a place? Some people certainly have.

I would argue against that though. A look through the history books will show you that Michael was incredibly fast from the moment he entered the sport. Starting an incredible 7th on the grid, the young German instantly took the sport by storm, soon generating huge support that lasts to this very day.

A man of this skill cannot be remembered for several clashes across a 19-year career. I’m not saying we should ignore Adelaide 1994, or Jerez 1997, but there are many more events over the years which attest to Schumacher’s skills.

Barcelona 1996 is the prime example. Earning the name “Regenmeister” in the process, he utterly destroyed the entire field in torrential rain, lapping 3 seconds a lap faster than anyone else, and lapping all drivers all the way up to 3rd position. If that isn’t one of the most legendary drives in F1, I don’t know what is.

The United States Grand Prix of 2003 will always stand out in my mind, rather unsurprisingly, seeing as it was my second ever F1 race. After slipping down to 6th on a damp track, Schumacher assumed the Bridgestone intermediates, and thrashed the entire field, cruising to the chequered flag after assuming the lead on lap 20.

What struck me about his pace, though, was his sheer consistency. While the BMWs and McLarens slided around the track like they were on ice, Schumacher was able to use his intermediates until they were slicks, not making a single mistake all race.

His pace since his return was never going to emulate his previous glory, only the naive would have thought that. Perhaps this is the reason so many were disappointed with his comeback, seeing as Michael had made such a fuss about winning the world championship again.

But that’s not the point. By returning in 2010, Schumacher had thrown himself into a different era of Formula 1. The tyres are more challenging, the cars are less rear-stable (for several reasons) and the talent pool had grown enormously. After shoving aside Kimi Raikkonen from 2001 to 2006, and Fernando Alonso up to 2004 Schumacher suddenly found himself completely eclipsed by the new guard. How much of it was down to old age, we will never know.

It has, however, given him new perspective:

"In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful for 
it: for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus. That losing 
can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something I had lost 
out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate to be able to 
do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have opened my horizon, 
and I am at ease with myself."

With his mind clear, I believe we can now look on Schumacher as the most complete driver in Formula 1 history. To this day, he is completely synonymous with this sport, and for good reason. We will never forget the glory days, Ferrari fans or not, and many will forever appreciate the huge appeal he gave to this epic sport.

The only thing he still has to do is complete a second epic exit from the sport. Many remember Brazil 2006 as one of his best drives, so let’s see what he’s got in these final few weeks.

Michael Schumacher announces second and final F1 retirement

After three disappointing years since his comeback in 2010, Michael Schumacher has decided to bow out of Formula 1 for good.

The 43-year-old has spent 3 difficult years with the Mercedes team, managing a solitary pole position, and one podium finish in that time. Bringing back memories, he has been often at the centre of controversy, with his dangerous move on Rubens Barrichello in Hungary 2010, spearing into Nick Heidfeld in Singapore, and recently taking out Jean-Eric Vergne at the same street circuit.

However, Schumacher today stated that he was still pleased with his comeback, and was satisfied that he was still able to compete at the top level:

"I have decided to retire from Formula One at the end of the season, although I am 
still able to compete with the best drivers of the world. This is something that 
makes me proud, and this is part of why I never regretted my comeback. I can be 
happy with my performance and the fact that I was continuously raising my game 
during the last three years. But then, at some point it is time to say goodbye.

Already during the past weeks and months I was not sure if I would still have the 
motivation and energy which is necessary to go on; and it is not my style to do 
anything which I am not 100% convinced about. With today’s decision I feel 
released from those doubts.

In the end, it is not my ambition to just drive around but to fight for 
victories; and the pleasure of driving is nourished by competitiveness."

He also acknowledged his faults in the past few years, and lamented his and his team’s inability to produce a championship-winning car:

"I have said at the end of 2009 that I want to be measured by my success, 
and this is why I had a lot of criticism in the past three years which 
partly was justified. It is without doubt that we did not achieve our goal 
to develop a world championship fighting car within those three years. It is 
also without doubt that I cannot provide a long term perspective to anyone. 
But then it is also clear that I can still be very happy about my overall 
achievements in Formula One.

In the past six years I have learned a lot, also about me, and I am thankful 
for it: for example, that you can open yourself up without losing focus. That 
losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning; something 
I had lost out of sight sometimes in earlier years. That you have to appreciate 
to be able to do what you love. That you have to live your convictions. I have 
opened my horizon, and I am at ease with myself.

I would like to thank Daimler, Mercedes-Benz and the Team for their trust. But 
I also would like to thank all my friends, partners and companions, who over 
many good years in motorsport supported me. But most of all I would like to 
thank my family for standing always by my side, giving me the freedom to live 
my convictions and sharing my joy."

Michael initially joined the Mercedes team for several reasons, one of the largest being Ross Brawn, the team principal and Schumacher’s boss in the Ferrari glory days, as well as back at Benneton in 1994/1995. Today he offered his thoughts on Michael’s retirement:

"We have enjoyed so many experiences together during our time at Benetton, Ferrari 
and Mercedes, and I feel very proud, honoured and privileged to have had the 
opportunity to work with Michael so
closely.

In my opinion, he is the greatest Formula One driver, and the records which he holds 
in our sport speak volumes for his success and commitment. On behalf of everyone at 
our Silver Arrows team, we wish Michael all the best with his future plans and extend 
our sincere thanks to him for his commitment, passion and hard work during our three 
=years together.

We have not achieved the results that we would have wished during this time; however 
Michael’s contribution to our development and the future of our team has been 
significant. Whatever Michael decides to do next, I am sure that he will be keeping a 
close eye on our progress in the years to come.

All of us in the team – and first and foremost Michael – are working hard to have six
more races in which we can show a respectable level of performance together. Thank you, 
Michael, for everything: it was, and is, a pleasure to work with you."

Michael Schumacher was responsible for getting me interested in Formula 1. The second ever Grand Prix I watched – USA 2003 – was a perfect example of his incredible speed and skill. Despite the controversy over the years, he will still go down as statistically the greatest Formula 1 driver ever. As a fan, thank you Michael, for nineteen years of tenacity, bravery, controversy and sheer brilliance.

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