Why Michael Schumacher is the villain we all love

Michael Schumacher. Perhaps one of the most distinguished names in sport, let alone Formula 1. You know who he is. You know what he did. You know the legacy he left behind. The undisputed king of F1.

Dressed from head to toe in red and arrogance oozing from within. Those were the glory days. The days when Schumacher was a household name, headlining newspapers internationally every fortnight, rewriting the record books. Make that how you remember him; though angel, he was not.

Schumacher had a presence. Similar to Ayrton Senna in that respect. That if you were to challenge his position, you must be prepared to face the consequences. Because in his mind ‘winners never quit and quitters never win.’

A cold-blooded risk taker whose only ambition was to win. Dangerous, yes. Ruthless, yes. But, did it work? Absolutely.

Seven times world champion, two with Benetton, five with Ferrari but all with Technical Director Ross Brawn. An unrivalled partnership that led the pair to 91 race wins and a staggering 155 podiums. Together they became the reference point, the benchmark, if you will.

Televised sport has a somewhat need for over-dramatising incidents. To be pantomime-esque and provide a talking point. The need for a good guy and a bad guy. Schumacher was the worst guy, getting under the skin of all other competitors and making it very apparent that he was not to be trifled with. Every action had an excuse yet nothing ever took away his determination.

Strip it all down and what’s left is a human being inspired by success, taking to the extreme to ensure he gets it. That time you cheated at Heads Down Thumbs Up staring at the person’s shoes, that’s your inner-competitiveness shining through. When football players dive in the penalty box. It’s an adrenaline boost so uncontrollable and so unethical, yet the gain is bigger than the loss.

Away from the racetrack, is a different story. After the tsunami’s that struck Asia in 2005, he donated $10m to Relief Aid. He founded ICM, the brain and spine institute and is an ambassador for the FIA’s Action for Road Safety and UNESCO amongst others.

Cheating is not what defines Michael Schumacher. It is a part of who he was inside the helmet. But there are multiple sides to a dice. One time it may be a split-second misjudgement, the next a purposeful manoeuvre and so on. The unpredictable driving style. The win-at-all-costs mentality. That’s what defines Schumacher. Let the statistics do the talking and the driving colour your screens.

Take him or leave him. He’s the villain you can’t help but love and admire.

Do take out eleven minutes of your time to watch this fan-made video. Tissues at the ready… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2EQYimzsaW0

#KeepFightingMichael

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“Give the fans a greater experience of motorsport.” – David Brabham

 

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Sir Jack Brabham remains the only man in history to have ever designed, built and raced his own championship-winning car. He is also the only man to have ever won the championship by pushing his car over the line, which saw him become 1959 champion – but that’s another story.
After a successful stint in Formula 1, Sir Jack’s team was sold; but now his family want to bring back the all-familiar race team; and bring back the illustrious name that is: Brabham. If one person can bring the name back to life, it’s the son of the three-time world champion, David. Getting help from outsiders like fans is a new, modern approach that may take some time. But despite the mammoth challenge that Project Brabham faces, within just seven weeks of the start-up the project raised £278,000 – more than the original target had set out – with donations coming from supporters of over 60 countries around the globe.

Autosport International was Project Brabham’s first public appearance where the team could truly showcase the project’s goals to the sports community. With the aim to include just about everybody, from fans to race drivers to business owners to engineers, the project fits the need of anyone wanting to be a part of something new and something different.

Speaking to David, he said: “I just felt that there was an opportunity for Brabham as a brand to come back into racing, but we’re going to do it differently. We’re going to open the door up completely. Lets give the fans a greater experience of motorsport with what goes on behind the scenes, but also for them to be engaged. So we’ll go to the community like we have already and say ‘hey look, we’re thinking of A, B, C and D, what’s your vote?’ so the community vote on it and then we move forward, but then we move forward together, not just our own little team moving forward to doing our thing.”

Several key ingredients of the project are waiting to be finalised, including Brabham-Digital which is effectively a fan portal of getting unrivalled team access. Brabham-Driver which helps drivers learn and grow and Brabham-Engineer aims to inspire the next generation of engineers.

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In just a matter of months the project has transformed from an idea to reality. “The response from the media, the fans and people even within the industry has been great, they have said what a fantastic, refreshing, new idea it is going. Its been phenomenal since we started launching what we are doing, to where we are today.” David said.

Reaching Formula 1 is the ultimate goal, but David knows that may be far into the future and is just focusing on the small steps. He says that the next goal is to be racing in the World Endurance Championship in LMP2 and added: “In LMP2 we can go and buy a chassis and we can go racing. And, it’s on a world stage; we have 64 countries contributing to our campaign, so we really should be out in a world championship.

And the idea is to move then into LMP1, where things get a little more exciting because then we’ll start to develop our own car. But we’ll use a community of engineers from around the world to help develop that car.”

The big question is who will be driving for the team, but David was quick to say that there are no guarantees in terms of driver line-up. David’s son Sam, whose plans for the upcoming season are yet to be announced, jumped in and said: “I better be…”. Though all of the family in the team sounds like a dream, David remains level headed and explained: “All three Brabhams in the car, together, racing in a World Championship in Le Mans, it sounds great, but at the end of the day I have to put my team principal hat on and say, you know, is it going to work for us or not? And if it does, then great, if it doesn’t, then we’ll have to do something different, but there’s no guarantees at all in terms of driver line-up.”

It’s a long road from here with talks with more investors taking place, but the more fans that get on board the better. Brabham Digital is at the forefront where fans will be able to see what’s going on backstage at Project Brabham and by this time next year, the campaign may well be in full swing. “There’s a lot of work to be done” said David, “the main prospect is Brabham-Digital, because what we want to do is for our community and as we said, when we launched it, fans will get to see how we built this, you know, step by step so they’ll be able to log in on the website and be able to see what’s going on behind the scenes and contribute in ways that you can’t really do in today’s world of motorsport.” Project Brabham takes pride in engaging the fans it has and continues to build its foundations on the self-subscription model it has made work with great effect. He also added: “When we grow and learn and we get better, people can also share that journey with us and maybe they’ll learn something that they’ll be able to adapt into their own lives and make that a benefit.”

David Brabham (AUS)

Images courtesy of Jakob Ebery
To sign up to Project Brabham click here

Favourite motorsport moment

Favourite motorsport moment in the last 25 years – ASI15 entry.

Jenson Button

The 2011 Formula 1 season wasn’t the greatest of years by all means, but it did showcase one of the finest races in the last decade: the Canadian Grand Prix.

Firmly cemented in the history books for generations stands an exceptional example of just why you shouldn’t – no matter what – give up.

What was just your average Sunday morning in Montreal proved to be an electrifying and somewhat, eye-opening display of race craft. Avoiding devastation by dancing around a slippy track with spray blinding the line of vision pushed some in the limelight, and others into the barriers.

But one man seemingly defied the odds. After a puncture, a drive through penalty and being almost a lap down, he ploughed passed his fellow participants and un-nerved Sebastian Vettel to emerge victorious.

A master class by one, Jenson Button.

You see, it’s not about being faultless. Everyone has their flaws and everyone makes mistakes. It’s how you deal with them, how you convert them and how you use them to your advantage, that counts. Jenson could very easily have given up. But he didn’t. Not because he thought he could go on to win (I’m sure most of us watching were not at all expecting that result) but because he truly believed that he could scrape something out of nothing.

It was that moment, that sheer determination, that sticks with me today. For that race had everything; excitement, disappointment, heartbreak, perplexity. Those are the best races. The ones where you experience almost every emotion. The unpredictable ones.

And for anyone that tells you, you can’t do something; remember Canada 2011, and politely tell them that they are so unbelievably wrong…

In memory of Ayrton Senna

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Truth be told, I don’t think we will ever ‘forget’ Senna. For a man whose influence continuously lives on despite his passing 20 years ago. A man whose presence captured the hearts of racing fans around the world.

There was a vulnerability and openness about him when he spoke. You’d really know and see how he was feeling. He wouldn’t avoid a question, he’d give a straight forward to-the-point answer of his real opinion. If he was annoyed, he’d tell you. If he was angry, you’d know. If he was upset, you’d see.

He had a desire, a dream, a vision and a determination that not many could match. He was ruthless and had the win at all costs mentality, because to him, second just wasn’t good enough.

Every story needs a hero and a villain. But Senna was so powerful because he was both. The aggression and hunger to win often overcame his driving style, but underneath his hard shell – underneath his helmet, was a gentle, compassionate and spiritual man.

His eyes would glimmer when talking about racing, and more-so when talking of his nephew, Bruno. But that was all because he was dedicated to Formula 1, and he devoted his life to it.

There was an instant commitment to driving. One that powered him to three world championships. Perhaps statistics aren’t in his favour against Juan-Manuel Fangio or Michael Schumacher but his career ended whilst in it’s peak, and could have gone on for much longer than it did.

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Sadly, Imola 1994 is etched into Formula 1 history for all the wrong reasons. But Senna – Ayrton Senna – is a powerful and provocative name in itself. As the years go on that will never change and Roland Ratzenberger, the rookie who never got to exploit his career, will live in our memories too.

His rivalry with Alain Prost (whom I believe, brought the best out of Senna). The orange and white liveried McLarens – particularly the MP4/4. His yellow helmet with the green and blue stripes are all iconic images that he’s left us.

Portugal 1985, Monaco 1988, Japan 1988, Brazil 1991 and Donnington 1993 are just a handful of examples of Senna at his best. Let the racing do the talking, as they say.

The Brazilian changed the face of Formula 1 and will forever be remembered as the one who set the ultimate standards. The light in his heart made him become a national treasure, but once inside the cockpit, he became a global icon.

Maybe some of us weren’t around to see him race live or in the flesh. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t admire who he was or what he achieved. Senna and his charisma are unforgettable and the mark he left on Formula 1 is far greater than what he could ever have imagined. His legacy is so strong that to this day, fans of all ages repeatedly ask “Ayrton Senna, what if..?”

A hero, an idol, an inspiration.

Ayrton Senna

Do Mercedes have the 2014 champion?

Just over 15 years ago, there were these two young aspiring race drivers – one British, and one German. They travelled the world in each others company progressing through the ranks, whilst dreaming of the day that they would rise to Formula 1. One after the other they won the Formula 3 title, then later became GP2 champions, and soon that dream became reality.

One became world champion. One out-raced a seven time world champion. One is extremely highly rated, whilst the other is often under-estimated. But both play a big part in being one of the strongest driver line-ups to date, and one could well be on his way to winning the 2014 championship.

No, not him – or his dogs (that seem to travel just about everywhere), I am referring to Nico Rosberg. The forgotten one if you like, or more-so, the misjudged one.

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The world took note of Schumacher’s fall in form, but perhaps what should have been made evident, was Rosberg’s rise in success. He was yet again cast in the shadows when his old friend Lewis Hamilton joined him at Mercedes, but despite that, he made his breakthrough.

Monaco 2013.

The weekend that most assumed Sebastian Vettel would take his third win of the season, or Hamilton would show people how it’s done, but no. The other German who was on a small streak of pole positions was the one to take the limelight – 30 years after his father did the same thing – and he did so, in style.

2014s new regulations mean that drivers have to think much more than they have done before. Some will need to adapt to balancing out fuel consumption against tyre wear, against energy recovery; but juggling all of these components is something that comes naturally to Nico. He’s an intelligent racer in that respect. He knows that pushing too hard this year could prove costly, and that patience could be key.

The Mercedes duo work effectively because they are two very different drivers, and you can rely on them both to produce good, solid results. But this year Rosberg may have the upper hand. His precision and tactical approach may work in his favour, and match him with a competitive car and you could have a big threat to Vettel’s dominance.

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However, if Vettel can’t get the respect that he truly deserves whilst he’s just braking records for the sake of it, what chance does Rosberg have of making his mark?

Apparently, none. But Rosberg has nothing to lose, he just has a lot to gain, and therefore won’t succumb to any type of pressure. He’s a pinpoint kind of driver. He envisions the circuit and works out where his car needs to be in what corner to set a good lap. He knows exactly what he wants from his car, and how he wants it to behave. And despite Mercedes being a multi-national team, Rosberg is able to speak to any engineer in their native language as he speaks five fluently – German, English, Spanish, Italian and French. Versatility at its best.

He’s sharp and very aware of his surroundings, because he’s a technical racer; unlike those around him who use the aggressive approach. But he also understands that every point matters, and that there is no need for silly mistakes – especially if the double point rule goes ahead. Reliability is the thing of most concern, and if the Mercedes car is able to finish every race, then whose to say they won’t be fighting right at the front?

Vettel is beatable, and Rosberg knows that. He has the intelligence to out-smart him, the ability to match him, and maybe, the car to beat him. A recipe for a champion, no? Taking his dad’s championship car number may be the extra bit of luck he needs, and if he takes all this and gives it more, this year could be very interesting.

Those who underestimate you, are the ones who don’t know what you are capable of.

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Michael Schumacher : Always a fighter

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

McLaren: A great success story

Sometimes you don’t realise how fascinating something is, until you look a little bit deeper. McLaren are a team who have evolved from a small team in Surrey, to one of the most familiar names in Formula 1 – past and present. Though they may not be the oldest team on the current grid, McLaren do offer a lot of faith and passion.

You don’t just get wins, you earn and fight for them, and even though McLaren are very much on an uphill battle now, I have no hesitations when I say they will be back on top soon.

Bruce McLaren was not only a racer himself, but he was a keen analyst and engineer too. At just 16 years old he begun to modify his Formula 2 Cooper-Climax car to the stage of finishing as a runner up in the 1957 New Zealand championship. The next year he made his debut in Formula 1 with his modified Cooper-Climax and finished 5th out of 26 other drivers. It was in 1959 where he won his first Grand Prix, setting the record for the youngest person to do so at 22 years and 80 days (which was later beaten by Sebastian Vettel). In fact in the following year he also managed to finish 2nd in the championship behind his team-mate Jack Brabham.

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At the end of 1965 Bruce left Cooper and announced he was forming his own racing team. In 1968 Denny Hulme (who had won the championship the previous year) joined Bruce McLaren Motor Racing along with Ford, and the duo won 3 races that season putting McLaren 2nd in the Constructor’s Championship.

At this point, McLaren were proving themselves as a massive force to be reckoned with in the Can-Am series. They won 5 of the 6 races in 1967, 4 of the 6 races in 1968 and all 11 races in 1969. Prior to the Can-Am series, Bruce and Chris Amon had also won the 24 Hour race at Le Mans.

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Sadly, Bruce passed away during an accident testing his new M8D at Goodwood. What the Kiwi doesn’t know, is how successful his original team have become. What was just a small group of people, has developed into a very glamorous, and desiring team.

Keke Rosberg, Juan-Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen, David Coulthard, John Surtees, Gilles Villeneuve and Mario Andretti are all amongst the long list of names who have driven for the infamous team, and that’s not to mention the 7 champions they have produced; Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and Lewis Hamilton.

The rivalry between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost, the amount of recognisable cars and drivers, the tradition to wear rocket red t-shirts after each victory, it all falls under the many reasons why they will always be a respectable and heart warming team.

Record:
Races Started – 734
Wins – 182
Pole Positions – 155
Podium Finishes – 483
Fastest Laps – 152
Drivers Championships – 12
Constructors Championships – 8

No matter who you support, you cannot help but respect how far this team have come. I may only be 18, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to appreciate the history that the team have produced. You see teams come and go but McLaren have always stood firm and produced strong competitive cars – Happy 50th anniversary!

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