Michael the Marvellous

 

So there we have it, the news many had predicted since we learnt that Lewis Hamilton would move to Mercedes; Michael Schumacher has retired from Formula 1. Well, to be more accurate it's a re-retirement, with the German previously leaving the sport at the end of the 2006 season. So how or what can you write about the most successful, the most controversial and the most iconic Formula 1 driver since Ayrton Senna?

Michael Schumacher's record in Formula 1 is there for everyone to see, but I still think it's more than right to show and explain just some of the extraordinary records and achievements that this man has to his name.

  • 7 Driver's World Championships
  • 91 race wins
  • 68 pole positions
  • 77 fastest laps
  • Finishing on the podium at all 17 rounds of the 2002 season
  • Most wins in a single season - 13
  • Most consecutive points finishes - 24
  • Most consecutive years with a win - 15 (1992-2006)

The list goes on, and on, and on. Basically, it's a safe bet that either currently or at one time Michael Schumacher held every desirable Formula 1 record there is. These are things you can't take away from Michael; he is and may well always be the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time. So why did he return in 2010? What did he have to prove? To the fans, nothing. To himself, something?

The great man clearly missed the adrenaline rush that Formula 1 gave him; so he decided to try out motorcycle racing. After a crash damaged his neck, Michael turned his attentions back to his true love. Ironically the crash ruled him out of a return to the sport in 2009 to replace the injured Felipe Massa, but we didn't have to wait long to see Michael back in a Formula 1 car. He signed a three-year-deal with Mercedes at the start of the 2010 season, although many didn't think he'd last the full three years.

Given his truly fantastic record in his 'first' career, was it ever going to be possible for him to get back to or even close to those dizzy heights once again? In all honesty, no. In reality, definitely no. His time at Mercedes has been tainted with clumsy crashes, a host of retirements and criticism. You'd be a fool to say it's all been because of Schumacher's age or rustiness (particularly in 2010). Throughout his career, particularly 1994-2006, he generally had either the best car or one of the best cars on the grid (arguably with the exception of the 1996 Ferrari, though he still won 3 times). So coming back with Mercedes, in a car that was only really the fourth best on the grid, made it tough. People have compared his comeback to that of Kimi Raikkonen. There are two significant things that differ between the two though; Raikkonen continued to race in his 2 years away from the sport (in the World Rally Championship), and when he did return the car he was driving (the Lotus) was competitive and was capable of fighting for wins.

Now I'm not making excuses for Michael. He's clearly had his issues since he returned and has simply been involved in too many silly incidents. Nearly running Rubens Barrichello into the pit wall in Hungary, running into the back of Bruno Senna in Barcelona, running into the back of Jean-Eric Vergne at the Singapore Grand Prix last time out to name a few. But for people to continuously throw the "he's too old" argument at him all the time is not really fair.

2012 has undoubtedly been the best season for Michael since his return, despite him being lower in the standings and having fewer points. He's had some rotten luck this season, particularly when it looked like he and the car were capable of a strong result (e.g. China). I'd argue that he has outperformed team mate Nico Rosberg more often than not this season, but luck just simply hasn't been on his side. Of course you could argue that Schumacher has had his fair share of luck in the past and has 'got away with' things many others may not have done. You make your own luck I guess..

Controversy is something that seems to have followed Michael around for much of his career. Much was made of the 1994 Benetton, in which he won his first World Championship, with many thinking it didn't necessarily comply with the rules. That year the lowest he finished (barring retirements and disqualifications) was 2nd, a remarkable statistic really. The 1994 Australian Grand Prix was the one of the most controversial in history, and unsurprisingly involved Schumacher. His collision with Damon Hill, which forced both cars to retire, gave Michael his first championship.

The same thing happened again in 1997, with Michael again being involved in a last race of the season title deciding incident. He came together with Jacques Villeneuve, but this time came off worse. He was forced to retire whilst Jacques carried on and took the title. Michael was later disqualified from that season's championship, but would be allowed to keep the race wins etc on his record. Basically, as you can see, Michael Schumacher and controversy were never too far apart. At the end of the day though, we all love a bit of controversy. It's gets us all talking and debating. But with Michael bowing out of the sport, it's one less (and big) topic to discuss.

How am I going to remember Michael Schumacher? As the most successful, controversial, and iconic driver of my life time, that's how. He showed his love and passion for the sport by making a return, and yes it's not been successful, far from it really, but I think you can only admire what he's tried to do. Hopefully for him, for Mercedes and for the world of Formula 1 we will get to see the 43-year-old legend stand on that podium again before we leave Brazil in November.

He's inspired a generation, a nation and the world and brought things to the world of Formula 1 that few had done before him. He sparked a whole new breed of Formula 1 drivers, particularly those from his homeland. We wouldn't have been graced with the likes of Sebastian Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg had it not been for the work Michael did throughout the 90's and early 00's. More than that though, he redefined what it was to be a Formula 1 driver. He was the first driver to take fitness completely seriously; and paved the way for others to follow. His fitness regime meant he had a physique like no one had ever seen (in Motorsport anyway), and it made teams up and down the grid stand up and take note. Formula 1 wasn't just advancing on the track, but off it too.

Thank you for all you've done for this sport Schumi. I've not always been your biggest fan, but I also have and always will respect anything and everything you have achieved. Is this the end of Michael Schumacher in Formula 1? In all probability yes, but after all this is Schumacher. I wouldn't be surprised to see him end up in DTM, again with Mercedes. One thing is for sure, Formula 1 is worse off for no longer having the Schumacher name in it. We've got 6 more races of Schumacher to enjoy, starting this weekend! Wouldn't everyone like to see 91 become 92?

"Although I am still able and capable to compete with the best drivers that are around, at some point it is good to say goodbye - and that is what I am doing this season. This time it might even be forever."

The image you see at the top of the article was drawn by a good friend of mine. I'd strongly encourage you to visit his website by clicking here.

Top Drivers

 
Driver Points
Hamilton 252
Rosberg 211
Vettel 203
Raikkonen 107
Bottas 101
Massa 97
 

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