My title for today’s “Thought of the Day” is a carbon copy of that of the June 2002 edition of the Official F1 Magazine – remember that? – and I feel it sums up today’s birthday boy, the tragically stricken Michael Schumacher.
He divided opinions. Some couldn’t look past his flaws – the Monaco 2006 parking incident that demoted him straight from the front of the grid to the back – an incident that put paid to hopes of an eighth title and a gracious high to end his first spell in Formula 1.
Then, there’s that incident with Jacques Villeneuve at the infamous title showdown at Jerez, 1997 where Michael “hit the wrong part of [Villeneuve], my friend” as Martin Brundle expertly put it.
Sure, he may not have been a gem – but my word he was fast. You don’t need me to tell you that. He had a meticulous eye for detail and according to his former engineers – most notably William Toet, who worked with Schumacher at Benetton – he could tell the ins and outs of what the car was doing and why it was doing said action within the span of three laps. It’s no wonder he won seven World Championships and dominated one of the most elite sports in existence for a decade.
There aren’t many people who can do that in any job, let alone whilst going at 200mph, with bumps battering your every limb and braking zones, gears and corners to memorise; and of course trying to be faster than everyone else. Almost like an extreme multi-tasking event for lunatics.
One thing that was certain about Schumacher (if his tactics were sometimes not), is that he’d always be in the title hunt in some way – even when the car wasn’t quite there (excluding Mercedes and Jordan spell). Bar 1999, when he suffered a broken leg at Silverstone, he was winning races, usually taking the title to the wire; unless he’d won it by Round 2…
He embodied the old saying “man and machine in perfect harmony” and it’s a crying shame we’ll never see that Michael back.
If he does make a full recovery from the horrendous injuries he sustained in a skiing accident at the back end of 2013, one can only hope we see the personal side of the German back.
Michael the easy talking interviewee, the philanthropist, the leader. Lest we forget the work he did to improve safety in the wake of his good friend and rival Ayrton Senna’s death at Imola 1994. The human being who was keen to shield his family away from the glare of the world’s press as much as he could, but Mick Schumacher faces a hard time sheltering from it now he’s stepped into single seater racing. If he has just a quarter of his father’s talent, he’ll go far.
At least, thanks to cameras, the era he competed in and the internet, we can enjoy his pole laps, fastest laps, overtakes and crushing wins, along with remembering the dynamic and successful partnership he had with Ferrari, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Jean Todt from 2000-2004. Only Mika Hakkinen, Juan Montoya, David Coulthard and Kimi Raikkonen could hold a candle to him (sorry, Rubens), and even then he remained unerring in his ways.
Love him or hate him, I’m sure you’ll join me in raising a glass, wishing him a recovery.
Happy Birthday, Schumi.
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