Sunday, October 29, 2006

Michael Schumacher. The Greatest of Them All.

Michael Schumacher. What remains that has not yet been said about this unparalled F1 champion?

Since he announced of his retirement, the summaries, tributes and mini biographies have poured, more so after his magnificent final race... a race against all odds to 4th place at the 2006 Brazilian GP recently. The debate whether he is the greatest F1 driver ever has raged non-stop since.

There is more or less a concensus on how Schumi lived each of his races and how he raced as though his life depended on it.

“I have great respect for Michael’s on-track achievements, just as I have great appreciation for the way he and I have been able to work together, off-track, within the GPDA, for the good of the sport.

“That said, there’s no question that it must be very difficult for the public to understand some of the things Michael has done on track, and to forgive him for not apologising for having done them." - David Coulthard (current F1 driver and race winner).
I think Coulthard sums up the what most of Schumi's contemporaries on the track think of him. He's the best driver but is rather ruthless and unapologetic on track, even for incidents which are clearly more than 'racing incidents'. Jacques Villeneuve, Damon Hill and Rubens Barichello have been on the receiving end of Schumi's... errr, single-mindedness on the race track.

4 of Schumi's incidents forever cloud the thoughts of F1 lovers:

1. Collision with Damon Hill - Adelaide GP 1994
2. Collision with Jacques Villeneuve - Jerez GP 1997
3. Ferrari team orders, Ruben Barrichello yields win - Austrian GP 2002
4. Schumi parks his car during qualifying - Monaco GP 2006

Luckily for you, I have the videos of all 4 incidents below. Enjoy and make up your own mind.

The F1 paddock fraternity agree with Coulthard.
"But though it might change as time mellows memories, he is also certainly going to be remembered, sadly, as an unsporting driver.

I've heard people say that Senna was also guilty of some dodgy on-track tactics. But it was a different thing with Senna, he was more emotionally driven, declared
his intentions beforehand and admitted them afterwards.

It wasn't a default setting like it is with Michael such as when he swerved off the
start line or when he was in a tight championship situation. There were just too many incidents with Michael.
There were a huge number of things that happened that maybe F1 fans don't know about, the background politics or for example that Michael played the safety card but only when it suited him." - Martin Brundle
Martin Brundle is a former F1 driver, former Schumi team-mate and current iTV-F1 commentator - partnered by Murray Walker formerly, currently partners James Allen in the commentary box during every F1 weekend.

Here are links to views of other F1 commentators who travel and interact with the drivers each GP weekend. Murray Walker (retired iTV-F1 commentator, wildly popular and is the "Voice of F1"), Mark Blundell (former F1 driver), Louise Goodman (current iTV-F1 commentator - she's the chick who interviews the F1 drivers on the paddock after they DNF) and Ted Kravitz (current iTV-F1 commentator - the dude who runs around the paddock asking the team managers what's gone wrong).

I find that I agree with Murray Walker the most. Schumi's been at the top of a very demanding sport for 16 years. That's much longer than any other F1 "great", from Fangio to Lauda, Prost to Senna. His records and achievements are unparelled (go here for a list of Facts and Stats of Schumi's Career). You'll be amazed at what this man has accomplished. For me, his achievements and unadulterated racing ability more than outshine any of the shadows some of his 'ill-advised' actions have cast on his career over the years.

All except the one where Rubens was forced to yield the win at the 2002 Austrian GP because of team orders. Denying a team-mate his richly deserved win (Rubens was faster all weekend, taking pole in qualifying and led the whole race) , is unforgiveable, no matter how much of a "team-sport" it is. I think Michael did realise the unfairness and sincerely regretted it. The sadness, embarassment and his act of nudging Rubens to the top podium spot looked genuine to me. But like Singapore's Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew when it comes to apologies, Schumi was deeply remorseful for Ruben losing the win, but would not apologise for taking it. That might be manifest of Schumi's inability to face his own mistakes that Coulthard was talking about.

In my eyes, he is the greatest F1 driver of all time. The greatest in talent, accomplishments and also flaws. And that's what makes him the greatest ever!

Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari - Schumi's career in that order.

Here's a link to Murray Walker and David Coulthard's Interview videos on BBC. They speak about their thoughts on Schumi. You need to click on the video link near the top of the page, directly beneath the title of the article "Who is the real Schumacher?". Clicking on this video link will open up a small window to view the video.

A link here to Road & Track magazine's interview (audio only) with Schumi on the sidelines of the 2006 Indianapolis GP. I found this interview highly entertaining and cast Schumi's more human and surprisingly humourous side.

And here's a BBC pictorial of
Schumi's career in pictures. Remember to let your mouse hover over the pictures themselves to read the comments that pop-up.

And finally, the videos.

1. Collision with Damon Hill - Adelaide GP 1994

2. Collision with Jacques Villeneuve - Jerez GP 1997

3. Ferrari team orders, Ruben Barrichello yields win - Austrian GP 2002

4. Schumi parks his car during qualifying - Monaco GP 2006


Timmy said...

Sean, Tim here... So this is what you been up to ? Not chasing high school girls in short shorts.... =P

Excellent Blog dude..keep it up !!

p/s: Have not seen Ken for a llooonnngggg time...

seantang said...

Hey bro. This is part of my psychotherapy regime. Without my usual high speed runs up and down LDP and PLUS to release a bit, I need to write lah ;p

high school girls in short shorts... mmmmmm, yum, slurp and lick-lick.