It seemed fitting to write something about Michael Schumacher. Perhaps for the wrong reasons, but when someone of such class and respect in motor-racing falls unwell or has an accident you truly realise the depth of a fan base. When Murray Walker was diagnosed with Cancer back in June, a large amount of fans came together to wish him well – in fact, during the British Grand Prix some fans sported get well soon Murray t-shirts and issued tributes to the legendary commentator. Similarly, the fan base united after the news of drivers passing away competing in the sports they love; Sean Edwards, Maria de Villota, Allan Simonsen and Wolf Silvester to name just a few. But the meaning of this post is to not highlight the dangers of the sport, but to focus on the man they all set out to beat, the one that they all want to be as successful as, and the one who set the benchmark.
Seven time world champion, winner of 91 races and a podium sitter ‘only’ 155 times it’s hard to dismiss Michael’s success. Controversial though he was, he is a man of great intelligence and worked well with his team to not only produce a race winning car, but to also lift the spirit of those around him. He knew every aspect of his car – all the technicalities, and was able to smooth out any imperfections to fight at the front of the field on a regular basis. He became renowned for his aggression and domination at Ferrari, and although he may not be the most loved driver, he was, and still is, a well admired one.
Michael has something that is different compared to every other driver. His racing attitude and perhaps perceived arrogance may have affected his popularity, but if you strip everything down to just the driver and their talent, Michael is incomparable. He had no distractions, wouldn’t lose focus, and in his prime was unstoppable. Yes, he had moments of controversy. But that was Michael. A win-at-all-costs kind of driver, who wouldn’t be happy with any result other than the top step of the podium.
His time at Mercedes wasn’t what was expected; but he returned to F1 calm, content and this time, it was to truly enjoy racing with no pressure. His comeback wasn’t bad as such – people just didn’t realise how much of a talent Nico Rosberg is. Michael was still the racer he was years before, he never lost that speed; in fact sticking his car on pole in Monaco 2012 (to later receive a penalty) proved that he was still the racer we all knew he was. To come back and face the new young talent is gutsy, but to match them – well that just proves why he’s a seven time world champion.
Fitness was a big thing for Michael. He worked extremely hard to get his body in shape so he could tackle every circuit with full strength. As cars evolved, Michael understood that he needed to train his body both physically and mentally so he could always drive flat out without feeling exhausted due to the substantial g-forces and muscle strain. Because of this, Michael’s mentality was very strong, and there was no way to break his concentration. Driving with a broken gear box (Spain 1994), winning a race in wet conditions despite racing on dry tyres (Belgium 1995), lapping all but two drivers (Spain 1996), and finishing on the podium during an entire season (2002) prove just how hard he raced. And even though his early years may be overshadowed by his ruthless side (Australia 1994 and Jerez 1997) he’ll always be thought of as the driver who never gave up.
He made some memorable mistakes and though they may never be justifiable, they’ll always be written down and remembered. The pros and cons of Michael Schumacher, if you like. But that doesn’t make him any less of a champion. His desperation to win, his work ethic and his natural racing ability all worked at one to produce one hell of a champion. He took over almost every landmark statistic in the sport and will always be considered as one of, if not the, greatest driver in Formula 1.
“Life is about passions, thank you for sharing mine.” – I think I speak on behalf of a lot of people when I wish you a speedy recovery. We are all routing for you to win your final and most important race.