Auf Wiedersehen Herr Schumacher
One would have a monumental task to properly bid Michael Schumacher farewell (again) in a simple article or blog post. It is safe to say that the many in the world of Formula One will miss seeing Schumi’s smiling face around next season.
The sometimes controversial German redefined success and re-wrote the F1 history books. Records came crashing down and new ones were set that may never be equaled or broken.
Love him or hate him, the numbers don’t lie. He did so much more than just win. He won with cars that had no business even being in a points paying position. While other drivers were living lavish life styles of rich and famous between races, Schumacher sat with engineers and mechanics to improve his car. Late nights, early mornings and countless laps of testing raised the level of competitiveness and perfection. After two decades of living in the F1 middle class, Scuderia Ferrari was raised to an almost untouchable status thanks in large part Schumacher. He alone, of course, was not the only ingredient in the winning formula, however, I’ll argue that he was a very important ingredient and perhaps the catalyst that made it possible.
There have been incidents of controversy such as the duel with Jacques Villenueve in the 1997 European GP and the infamous “valet parking” during qualifying in Monaco in 2006 where he stopped his car in the Rascasse corner. It was these acts that either made you love or hate him for his ruthlessness and desire to win at all costs. While some may wave the naughty finger at him for these episodes, others compare Schumacher’s thirst for victory to a sort of Darwinistic, “Survival of the Fittest” or “Natural Selection” in theory.
I’ve sat and listed to many F1 journalists and experts argue over who THE GREATEST F1 driver in history has been. I mean real experts, people that have been in F1 or covering the sport for over 30 years. Many names were tossed about, Jim Clark, Gilles Villenueve, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Juan Manuel Fangio etc… Each in a different era, each under different circumstances and each in a different light.
I suppose it all comes down to how one defines the term GREATEST. If one measures greatness, by success, wins, titles, points etc.., then surely one would have to consider Schumacher as a fitting recipient of that honor.
In these discussions however, some of these experts put an asterisk beside Schumacher. The argument being that at least two of his titles were marred by question marks over the legality of his car. Michael’s first two titles were with Benetton which some believe may have been using a sort of traction control system, which was against the spirit of the technical regulations. I found myself defending Schumacher however, as I believe that if the FIA deemed a title to be awarded, then it should serve as a final ruling on any question of legality.
The name Schumacher will forever be associated with Formula One, speed and victory. While his comeback out of retirement did not go as planned, his legacy remains as it was. His status as legend had been solidified and it put F1 in the spotlight around the world. His achievements got people talking about F1 in a positive light which after the tragic death of Senna was much needed. Anytime anyone brings attention to F1, it can be seen as a good thing. As the old adage goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
While you may or may not agree with this post, I am thankful that I was alive in the times of legends like Gilles Villenueve, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Michael Schumacher. For me, it will always be sad to see one of the greats go.
To Michael Schumacher who will never read this or even know I exist, I thank you for the memories. I for one shall miss you.
Author: Ernie Black