Michael Schumacher – a true great but left with no competition

When we watch sports – be it tennis, football (round and pointy) or our favourite motorsport series we look for the new star, that person who will shake things up. Senna did that in the Tolman, Niki in the Ferrari and Lewis in the McLaren, with one of the most awe inspiring first season’s in F1.

There’s one person I left off of that list, and that is Michael Schumacher. His rise to fame was nothing short of amazing jumping from Endurance cars  to F1 in the Jordan and then to eventually win seven Formula One World Driver Championships.

True greats end up with two situations which can be blemishes on their career, firstly teammates that look grey in comparison. Senna, Prost, Lauda, Alonso and Hamilton – barring when teammates were world champions themselves had less than stellar teammates, either via talent not being the same or because of contracts, is one thing that is to be expected. You aren’t going to be a world champion in a no.2 seat – ask Mark Webber. McLaren and Mercedes have mostly for instance run with no preferred main driver. Hamilton/Alonso and Senna/Prost are the two that most remember. But since Mercedes returned as a works team in 2010, their drivers have no preferential treatment. Alonso more or less dismissed the talent of Hamilton, and then scrapped with his teammate for the most of the season, perhaps to his cost and his Championship chances. Senna and Prost, were completely different in how they raced, both were racers. They mostly worked “well together” until well that corner at Suzuka and Senna, being Senna wasn’t happy with the tarmac being “inferior” to the P2 slot of Prost’s Mclaren.

One team in Formula One has traditionally has had contracted driver placings, that is Scuderia Ferrari S.p.A.. The system of number one and two drivers has worked well for them up until the mid 90’s. That started to erode, first with the paring of Eddie Irvine and then later with Rubens Barrichello from 2000. Both were fast drivers, and if Michael wasn’t there, they’d have probably won championships with Ferrari.  Both Barrichello and Irvine suffered from retirements, we won’t ever know if those were due to testing parts or for genuine reasons.

The 2006 Ferrari team at Brazil at Schumacher’s last race for Ferrari. Image courtesy of Ferrari

The second situation which nearly every dominant world champion faces (Senna and Prost didn’t as much), is that if you start to win as many world championships as Prost, Lauda, Senna, Vettel, and perhaps more acutely, Schumacher and Hamilton – well drivers retire, either to race in another series, or start their own vineyard!. Sometimes you are done with the sport, for which theirs many reasons, from health issues to the simple fact of not being good enough to be beat the best. But as a world champion you crave to have the best fight for the championship that you can, ideally not with the little new kid but that one, who has won a lot.

In any sport, you have golden eras, where there isn’t just one great but three maybe four individuals (and teams in team sports) who stand out. In Formula One we’ve had had the late 80’s, where we had, Piquet, Prost, Senna and Mansell whom where fighting for the world championship, they all became world champions.

In the 90’s we had Häkkinen, Hill, Villeneuve, Senna, Prost and Mansell all gunning for the championship. Schumacher won two world championships in 94-95 – early in his F1 career, it was a rich fabric of talent, that were World champions or in waiting. Schumacher became the best because he beat the best. But slowly one by one, they, had their names engraved upon the Formula One world champions trophy. Some jumped to another Series, Mansell to Indycar in 1993. Or others, going to less competitive cars, Villeneuve (British American Racing) and Hill (Arrows). Others simply stayed on a year and retired, Häkkinen and Prost. Senna, of course sadly lost his life at Imola in ’94.

He didn’t have the competition. Those world champion weren’t there, or in uncompetitive cars. Ferrari where the only competition, and Rubens was prevented from racing Michael, which came to a head in 2002 at the Austrian GP with Barrichello being ordered to let Schumacher pass him for the win. This lead to one of the most embarrassing podiums known in recent years.

Schumacher won in 94,95 and then from 2000,01,02,03 and 04 being his last championship win before he retired in 06. Those years (00 to 04) whilst showing his ability as a driver, to win. But you always felt with the team orders that win rate was partly Barrichello’s input as well as his own.

I entitled this piece, “Michael Schumacher – a true great but left with no competition” that is true, his existing competition of world champions left the sport one way or another. But he then had to fight off new competition in the form of Raikkonen and Alonso, whom ended up with three world championships between them. Alonso beat Schumacher in 2005 and 2006, Räikkönen nearly did so in 2003 but bested McLaren teammates Alonso and Hamilton in 2007 by one point.

Featured Image courtesy of Ferrari

#SchumiWeek – Michael Schumacher’s Ten Biggest Rivals

Michael Schumacher was in Formula One for nearly 20 years, having raced in 19 seasons from 1991-2012. Over this time he accumulated his fair share of rivals, and people who sought to dethrone the most successful man in the sport’s history.

10 – Nico Rosberg

A somewhat strenuous use of the word rival, in Schumacher’s comeback with Mercedes in 2010, young team mate Rosberg outscored Schumacher in each of the three seasons the pair raced together. Nico also won the 2012 Chinese Grand Prix, the first win of Mercedes’ return to the sport. Schumacher had his moments, but was never quite on the pace of his younger team mate, who is often your main rival in motor racing.

9 – Kimi Raikkonen

The spiritual successor to Mika Hakkinen, more on him later, Raikkonen showed what he could do in 2002, earning a handful of podiums in a largely unreliable McLaren. It was 2003 which showed he had the ability to end Schumacher’s run of title wins. Raikkonen only won once, his first win coming in Malaysia, but his consistency and ten podiums from a possible 16, saw Raikkonen in title contention at the final round at Suzuka. Second place wasn’t enough and Schumacher won the title by just two points. However the gauntlet had been laid down to the mercurial German.

8 – Rubens Barrichello

In the years where Ferrari reigned supreme, Barrichello was the only real rival to Schumacher. Spending six years as team mates, Barrichello and Schumacher were largely a good pair, though they had their moments. In Austria in 2002, Schumacher was controversially allowed to win after team orders denied Barrichello, who had led all race. Later in the year at Indianapolis, Rubens was given the win on the line as a token gesture from Schumacher. When no one could touch Schumacher, Barrichello put up a respectable fight. The relationship deteriorated in 2010 at Hungary though, as Schumacher, while defending from Barrichello’s Williams, almost pushed him into the pit wall at 180mph. Barrichello said at the time: “It is the most dangerous thing that I have been through.” Schumacher was handed a ten place grid penalty at the next race and apologised for the incident, despite pleading his innocence following the race.

7 – Ayrton Senna

In a case of ‘What could have been’, Senna and Schumacher only spent two full years on the grid together. But in 1994, Senna famously protested Schumacher’s Benetton B194, which he thought was illegal. Following Senna’s early retirement from the Pacific Grand Prix, Senna stood at the first corner and listened to Schumacher’s car go through, claiming to hear ‘unusual noises’ from the engine. It is largely considered that the B194 was an illegal car, but never was proven. Senna’s tragic death at Imola in 1994 robbed Formula One of what could have been an incredible rivalry between two of the sport’s greats.

6 – Juan Pablo Montoya

This rivalry was short lived but just as fiery. At the 2002 Malaysian Grand Prix, there was a first corner collision between Montoya and Schumacher. Schumacher’s Ferrari understeered into Juan Pablo’s Williams, but it was Montoya who received a penalty. This was ‘overly harsh’ according to Schumacher. The pair collided at the next race at the next race in Brazil, but much less furore this time. Montoya was best of the rest that season, finishing third behind the dominant Ferrari’s. Montoya was part of the next generation who really challenged Michael’s dominance.

5 – David Coulthard

“I’m very lucky to have raced against the most successful driver in the sport,” Coulthard mused in a YouTube series dedicated to Schumacher’s rivalries. “The relationship evolved to friendship in the end, but in the beginning, a respectful rivalry.” There were infamous incidents in Belgium and Argentina in 1998, where Schumacher collided with Coulthard. The incident at Spa, where Schumacher collided with Coulthard while lapping him, prompted the German to run to McLaren’s garage to fight with the Scot. Thankfully team personnel held them apart. At the 2000 French Grand Prix, Schumacher ‘Angered’ Coulthard after Schumacher swerved to hold off the McLaren off the start. “it was like a sporting slap in the face,” the Scot said.  “I reflect on my rivalry with Michael, as thankful to have had the opportunity to share the race track with him. I think racing against Michael made me better.”

4 – Fernando Alonso

One of best contested rivalries over Schumacher’s career. Alonso was the one to finally dethrone Schumacher, winning the title in 2005. “The battles with Michael were the best moments of my career,” Alonso said in an interview. “Going wheel to wheel with Michael was tough. I was intimidated by Michael.” At the 2005 San Marino Grand Prix Alonso and Schumacher had an incredible battle for the lead, with Alonso prevailing with Schumacher on his tail for the final 12 laps. Another example of the mutual respect between the two was the 2005 Japanese Grand Prix, where Alonso overtook Schumacher round the outside of the high speed 130R corner at 180mph. An incredibly difficult move which required respect between the pair, and was executed perfectly by Alonso.

3 – Jacques Villeneuve

The most controversial rivalry on this list, Schumacher and Villeneuve infamously collided at the 1997 season finale at Jerez while fighting for the championship. Villeneuve dived down the inside of Schumacher at the last possible moment, Schumacher was alleged to have turned into Villeneuve to try and take him out, it failed and Schumacher retired. Villeneuve won the title and Schumacher was excluded from it, losing all his points. The counter argument was that Villeneuve wouldn’t have made the corner as he came in too quick. However, 1997 signalled Schumacher and Ferrari were on the rise, and that Williams’ dominance of the 90’s was coming to an end.

2 – Damon Hill

One of the longer lasting rivalries of Schumacher’s career. Damon and Michael came to blows at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix while fighting for the title. Damon made a move on Michael going into a tight right hander. Schumacher closed the door on Hill, with the pair colliding. Michael’s Benetton was sent into the wall and Hill later retired with damage to his suspension from the impact. “I didn’t expect that Michael would be prepared to take me off if I was going to pass him,” Hill said in an interview with the Formula 1 YouTube channel. There were further collisions between the pair in Britain, Belgium and Italy in 1995. While it was a largely respectful rivalry, as most of Michael’s rivalries were, the pair fought hard in the mid 90’s.

1 – Mika Hakkinen

Undoubtedly Michael’s strongest rivalry, as well as Mika being one of the few drivers Michael truly feared. “Challenging Michael it was natural to me, to beat him. But to beat him and challenge him on the race track it was always a fair fight,” Hakkinen said in an interview with Formula 1’s official YouTube channel. This rivalry was incredibly respectful, with both drivers in awe of their adversary’s racing ability. “It’s easy to show frustration in public, and start saying something about your competitor in public, we didn’t start this kind of game,” Hakkinen stated. Arguably the finest overtake in Formula One history was contested between the pair at the 2000 Belgian Grand Prix. On the run down to Les Combes, Hakkinen attempted a move which Michael blocked. Not to be fooled again, Mika tried the move again a lap later while also lapping Ricardo Zonta’s BAR, cutting down the inside of both Zonta and Schumacher, and making the move stick. The late 90’s saw these two light up Formula One with some incredible racing, and Mika brought out the very best in Michael, and vice versa.

Featured image courtesy of Steve Etherington / Mercedes AMG

Schuey’s Moments of Madness

You cannot talk about Michael Schumacher, without bringing up his various incidents on track. I’ve picked out these particular examples, one of which came before his Formula One debut.

1990 Macau Grand Prix

This event, held for Formula Three cars saw a big battle between him and Mika Hakkinen. On the last lap of the event, having just started the final lap Mika was tucked up under the rear wing of Michael’s Reynard, and didn’t need to overtake the German to win the event. As the Finn went to pass his rival, Michael made the one move which would become a signature of his career and the two cars come together. Mika’s car, run by West Surrey Racing, was damaged on the left-hand side, with broken suspension and front wing. Mika was out, and Michael went on to win the event.


1994 Australian Grand Prix

For the next incident, we jump forwards to 1994. The battle that year between Damon and Michael was epic. As the two drivers came to the final race of the year, the Australian Grand Prix, held at the iconic Adelaide street circuit, Damon was just a single point behind Michael, after taking victory in a very wet Japanese Grand Prix. Now on lap 35, having taken the lead at the start of the race from Nigel Mansell who was on pole position, the Benetton driver had a moment coming into a left-hand corner, and he caught the rear of the car, but went wide, hitting the wall on the exit, and almost certainly damaging his car. Damon was around two seconds away, and witnessed Michael re-joining the track. The Brit didn’t know that Michael had hit the wall. Coming into the following right-hand corner, Damon moved to the inside of Michael, but the gap closed down, and the two cars came together. Now, Michael certainly knew that his car was damaged, so, did he move over on his championship rival? My opinion is that he did.


1997 European Grand Prix

Moving on to the next incident at Jerez at the end of 1997, I believe that this was pretty obvious to all. The battle between Jacques Villeneuve and the German for that season’s title, as Ferrari looked at the time to win their first championship since 1979 was big indeed, and Michael once more was leading the championship by one point as they came to the finale. The top three set the same time in qualifying with the Canadian on pole, followed by Michael, and then Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Michael took the lead, and Jacques dropped behind his teammate to third place. During lap seven, Jacques passed Heinz, and set about closing the gap to Michael. On lap 22 they both pitted, but Michael’s pace on his new set of tyres was not very good, and Jacques closed the gap down. During lap 47 the Canadian was right with Michael, and took a last gasp move up the inside, taking the Ferrari driver by surprise. Michael attempted to stop the Williams driver, by hitting the side of Jacques car, but this resulted in the steering getting broken on the Ferrari, and the car ended up in the gravel trap on the outside of the right-hand corner. It was a blatant move, and the FIA removed Michael from the drivers’ championship standings.


2000 Belgian Grand Prix

Moving onto the next big moment, which happened at the Belgian Grand Prix during the 2000 season. This was different from the previous events as it was not a championship decider, but Mika Hakkinen and Michael were still fighting for the championship. It was a wet to dry race and Mika led the race early on, with his rival down in fourth place. By lap 13 Michael was close enough to take advantage of Mika’s spin to take the lead. The Ferrari ace then had a 5.6 second lead at the end of the lap. As we came to the last few laps, Mika had been catching the leader, who had been suffering with tyres that had been overheating for a number of laps. He’d been driving off line on the Kemmel Straight to cool his tyres down, whilst Mika brought the gap down to just 1.6 seconds with just ten laps left. Coming up the Kemmel Straight with just five laps left, Mika was right on the tail of the Ferrari, and took a look up the inside but Michael edged the Ferrari over on the McLaren and Mika had to back out as the gap closed down. It was over the mark though, as Mika was very close to ending up on the grass. The McLaren driver got his own back however on the following lap with a dramatic move, and one that is well known – yes, that move with Ricardo Zonta in his BAR-Honda in the middle.

Ferrari Media

2006 Monaco Grand Prix

We head to Monte Carlo for the next incident, the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix. Towards the end of qualifying, as Michael had already set the fastest time, and was on pole position, he came to La Rascasse, and didn’t make the corner. Meanwhile, his big rival for the championship, Fernando Alonso was on a quick lap, going purple in the first sector. Back at La Rascasse, the German ace was parked up, meaning that there were yellows being waved. Alonso had to back out of his quick lap, and thus it was suspected that Michael had done this deliberately. The FIA believed it, and after several hours the stewards stripped the Ferrari driver of pole, thus elevating the Renault driver who was second fastest.

Ferrari Media

2010 Hungarian Grand Prix

The final moment came in 2010 during the year when Michael made his return to Formula One with Mercedes-Benz, and it was against his former Ferrari teammate, Rubens Barrichello during that years Hungarian Grand Prix. Coming to the end of the race, the Brasilian, who had qualified his Williams-Cosworth in twelfth position, was right on the German’s tail. Coming onto the start finish straight, Michael’s car slid at the rear mid corner point. Rubens was now within a one car length of the Mercedes-Benz, and was benefiting from the tow halfway down the straight. Michael had his car in the middle of the track, giving space to Rubens to go either side. The gap on the inside was starting to close, but there was good space for the Williams driver to make a move up the inside. By the time that Rubens was halfway alongside Michael, the gap had reduced and the pitwall was getting closer and closer as Michael continued to reduce the space that Rubens had. In the end the gap came right down to the point that Rubens left-hand tyres were on the inner white line near the pitwall, with the result that the right-hand side was very close to hitting the pitwall! Thankfully, the pitlane was just beyond, and crucially no-one was exiting the pitlane at that moment! There was immediate criticism after the race of Michael’s actions. One thing was true – he’d lost nothing of his dislike of being overtaken, and was still willing to push the envelope of what was right. Michael was given a ten-place grid penalty for the following race in Belgium, and although he initially defended his actions, he later apologised for his actions.

Mercedes AMG


Michael Schumacher was an incredible talent – there is no doubt about this. But he really used to push the envelope as to what was acceptable. He became the most successful driver ever, winning 91 races and seven world championships, but there will always be these incidents casting a shadow over his career.

Indianapolis Grand Prix – 2005 a Race to Remember

A race that I will never forget, as a Schumacher fan. I was happy because that victory, in a disastrous season for Ferrari, was like a cold beer during a hot day in the summer. That day will be stuck in my mind for the rest of my life.

Ferrari Media

It was a tough season for Ferrari and Schumacher. The team had dominated for the past five years, but that year Fernando Alonso, accompanied by Giancarlo Fisichella, decided to shake the standings. Renault scored nine points more than McLaren-Mercedes and they were crowned as constructors’ champions.

The strangest race of the season, if not F1’s history, took place in the US and more specifically in Indianapolis.

Ralf Schumacher had a serious crash during the practice session on Friday, caused by a tyre failure. The German crashed at turn 13, a special high-speed and very demanding turn which was applying extra load on the tyres.

Ferrari Media

Williams, was not the only team that had an issue at that specific turn. The following day, Michelin stated that BAR, McLaren, Red Bull, Renault, Sauber, Toyota and Williams had problems at the same turn. The tyre supplier couldn’t find the root cause of the problem. Michelin proposed that the teams use tyres with different specifications, but the problem was that the ‘new’ tyres, which were the same type as the ones that used in the Spanish Grand Prix, had the same flaw.

Time was ticking. The FIA proposed adding a chicane at the final turn of the circuit but it was vetoed by Ferrari. On race day, Charlie Whiting gave the green light to the drivers to start the formation lap. 20 cars started but only six completed the lap. Only the teams that were racing with Bridgestone’s tyres could participate in the race, leaving only Ferrari, Jordan and Minardi.

“If it comes down to my choice, I want to race,” David Coulthard stated.

It was an easy victory for Michael Schumacher. The German driver led the race from the beginning and took the chequered flag, followed by his team-mate Rubens Barrichello. Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan finished third and fourth respectively, while Christijan Albers finished fifth and Patrick Friesacher sixth.

That victory was the only one for Schumacher and Ferrari in 2005 and moved him to third place in the drivers’ standings.

Schumacher Week – Legacy

On July 25th 2004, Michael Schumacher took victory at the Hockenheim circuit in the last of his championship winning cars, the Ferrari F2004. Fifteen years later almost to the day, his 20-year old son Mick drove some demo runs at Hockenheim in that very same car. The crowd were erupting with cheers for Mick, but it was no easy ride to get there.

Mick began his career in 2008 at the same kart track where his father started. For most of his karting career he went by the pseudonym Mick Bestch, using his mother’s maiden name to avoid media attention.

In his first three years, Mick committed to the Kerpen Kartchallenge Bambini races. He finished 4th in 2009 and won the following year. With the KSM Racing Team, he moved up to KF3 for 2011, competing in German championships and even finishing third in the Euro Wintercup. He did so again the following year, as well as securing third place finishes in the ADAC Kart Championship and DMV Kart Championship and 7th in the ADAC Kart Masters.

2013 would be the year that Mick would sneak out of relative anonymity, as he stepped up to compete at a European level. He took part in the CIK-FIA European, WSK Euro Series and WSK Super Master Series KF-Junior championships, and finished third in both the German Junior Kart Championship and the CIK-FIA Super Cup event. With it, the media started picking up that he was in fact Michael’s son.

In what would be Mick’s last year of karting, he would go by a new pseudonym Mick Junior, and finished runner-up in the Deutsche Junior Kart Meisterschaft, and the CIK-FIA European and World KF-Junior Championships. Tragedy followed in late 2013, as Mick was skiing with his father when Michael had the accident that resulted in the injury that has seen him away from the public ever since.

Mick has understandably remained very quiet about that fateful day, but he hasn’t let it prevent him from chasing his dream and, after what was predictably an emotionally difficult final year in karting, he would move up to cars for 2015.

Signing for the Van Amersfoort outfit, Mick would hit the ground running in his first weekend in the opening round of the German ADAC Formula 4 championship with a win in the third race at Oschersleben. He wouldn’t herald much more success that year, with only one further visit to the podium on his way to 10th overall.

For 2016, Mick moved to Prema PowerTeam and doubled up his commitments with a dual campaign in the German and Italian F4 championships. This is the point where Mick began impressing me. He took five wins in both championships and just missed out on winning both. He ended the year by finishing third in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 winter series.

Mick remained with Prema as he stepped up to the FIA F3 European Championship for the following year. The transition didn’t herald immediate success, with only a single podium and a 12th-place finish overall, third of the first-year F3 drivers behind Jehan Daruvala and outright champion Lando Norris.

So far, it was a career that was promising but hadn’t been hugely stellar. Understandably, he is carrying the burden of being the son of the most successful F1 driver of all time, and most sons of former drivers get grouped in with pay drivers. But 2018 would prove to be Mick’s year.

Remaining in F3, he began the year under the radar. It would be the second half of the season at the venue where his father had a lot of his career highs though that he would finally find form, Spa-Francorchamps. Earning pole position in the second race but having to retire, he battled team-mates Robert Shwartzman and Marcus Armstrong in race three and finally got that first win.

That was the start of a great run of form, as he went on to pick up wins at the following rounds at Silverstone and Misano. At the Nürburgring round, Mick joined an illustrious group of racers by picking up all three wins in a single Euro F3 meeting, a group that includes the likes of Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll.

With two further wins at the following round at Red Bull Ring, he overtook long-time series leader Dan Ticktum, a polarising figure who was being hyped up as Red Bull’s next F1 star. Ticktum openly suggested on his social media that there were factors towards Mick’s success, seemingly an accusation of cheating. Nevertheless, Mick sealed the championship, his first in car racing.

Before his 2019 campaign began, Mick had a choice to make. Prema often houses a lot of Ferrari young drivers, and with the F3 team being powered by Mercedes, Mick had gotten offers from both of his father’s former teams. He ultimately decided to go with Ferrari, the team that his father won five straight championships with, rather than the team he was with for his three-year comeback.

Scuderia Ferrari Press Office

On his debut in the Grand Prix-supported Formula 2 championship, he finished 8th in the feature race at Bahrain, meaning he would start on pole for the sprint race, although he was unable to keep his tyres in good condition. However, the week after driving his dad’s 2004 F1 car, he repeated the performance he’d put in in the Bahrain feature race, this time in Hungary, and went on to win the sprint race too.

He also took part in tests with both Ferrari and Alfa Romeo after the Bahrain Grand Prix, and a seat looks set to open up at Alfa should Ferrari decide to either promote or drop current driver Antonio Giovinazzi from the lease Alfa seat. However, 2020 is a make-or-break year for Schumacher, as he faces stiff competition from his teammate, fellow Ferrari Academy driver and reigning F3 champion Robert Shwartzman.

I do rate Mick, but if he is outperformed in F2 this year by the highly-rated Shwartzman then that theoretically should be it for him. If he isn’t in championship contention or if the Russian outperforms him, I don’t think Mick should get that seat. But I believe Mick will do well, and hopefully he proves his doubters wrong and that he isn’t just there because of the name.

Mick has a cousin too, Ralf Schumacher’s son David who is a runner-up in the German Kart Championship, best-placed rookie in German F4 and will be racing this year in the same paddock, albeit in F3 for Charouz.

The Schumacher legacy lives on. Hopefully Mick does prove this year that he is worthy of a place in F1, and he can forge his own.

Images courtesy of Scuderia Ferrari

Michael Schumacher- The 1994 Spanish Grand Prix in 5th Gear

Michael Schumacher had many incredible races, but this race showed his resilience and determination to finish a race even with his car having mechanical issues.

It was the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona and the first race held after the tragic deaths of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna at the previous race at Imola. Schumacher was driving one of the Benetton-Ford cars, with team-mate JJ Lehto in the other.

Several top-level names, including Schumacher, were instrumental in the set-up and running of the Grand Prix Drivers Association (GPDA), and the 1994 Spanish Grand Prix was the first race after its formation. They had made the decision to install a temporary chicane before the Nissan corner, which was generally taken at near flat-out speed, in an attempt to improve safety by reducing speed at that point at the track.

Schumacher took pole position, the second of his career and second in a row, some half a second clear of Damon Hill, who in turn had qualified just one thousandth of a second ahead of Mika Hakkinen in third. Schumacher’s team-mate Lehto was fourth.

Jordan’s Rubens Barrichello qualified in fifth, followed by the two Ferrari’s of Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Martin Brundle managed P8 and David Coulthard, who was making his debut in Formula 1 for Williams, replacing Ayrton Senna, qualified a respectable P9. The Tyrrell of Ukyo Katayama completed the top ten.

Andrea Montermini had been elevated from test driver to race driver for Simtek after the death of Roland Ratzenberger, but he crashed heavily into the pit-wall and broke both ankles, this ending his race weekend and also his season.

Beretta retired on the formation lap when his Larousse-Ford’s engine failed on the formation lap. At the start of the 65-lap race, Schumacher led from pole position while Barrichello and Berger collided at the first corner. Neither driver retired as a direct result of the collision, although both did so later on.

Schumacher led for the opening 22 laps of the race before pitting with what looked like gearbox issues. The Benetton was left with only fifth gear still working.

Despite driving the last 40 laps in fifth gear and making another pitstop, in which he managed to not stall the car, Schumacher continued to set respectable lap times considering he was losing up to 20 miles an hour on the main straight. He adjusted his driving style to find new racing lines, backing off early on the straights and rolling through corners, drawing on his past experience as a World Sports Car driver for help.

Schumacher ended up finishing a very respectable P2 some 24 seconds behind the Williams of Damon Hill. It was a stunning drive to adapt to the ailing car and still bring it home on the podium, marking Schumacher as a true racer who kept fighting in conditions that were stacked against him.

Schumacher commented after the race, “At the beginning it was a bit difficult to take all the corners in fifth gear, but then I managed to find a good line and keep up lap-times that were more or less good enough to compete against the others behind me.”

It was a truly stunning drive from a true legend.



[Featured image credit: Martin Lee / Wikimedia Commons]

Michael Schumacher Week – The Return of The King

After 268 races, 91 wins, and most coveted, seven world championships, Michael Schumacher retired in 2006 as the most decorated Formula One driver in the history of the sport. He had achieved the pinnacle of success, experienced the highest of the highs, and endured the lowest of the lows. Such is the rollercoaster of emotions that is Formula One, but Schumacher had mastered it with a mix of immense talent, fitness and, at times, deviousness.

He therefore left F1, not just as a winner, but as one of the most intense competitors the world of motor racing has ever seen. He is truly the definition of doing whatever was necessary to win.

With that being said, it was perhaps easily foreseeable that he would make his return at some stage – and he did.

Having spent the last 11 years of his first F1 tenure with Ferrari, he worked closely with the team after his retirement, and all eyes were on him making his sensational return with the Scuderia for the start of the new decade in 2010. But Fernando Alonso was chosen as Kimi Raikkonen’s successor, and Schumacher was destined for a greater test.

Having managed the astonishingly dominant Ferrari team during Schumacher’s spell with them, Ross Brawn would help steer the Brawn team to the most inconceivable championship success in 2009, but a lack of funding meant he needed a buyer to sustain a place on the grid for 2010. Good job then, that Mercedes saw their opportunity to make their own sensational return to Formula One with Brawn at the helm.

Having maintained a strong relationship with him at Ferrari, Brawn was able to entice Schumacher into the long-term vision of returning Mercedes to past glory.

And so it was that Schumacher had secured his comeback to the sport he had conquered and mastered before, but was it time to add championship number eight to the tally?

Before the commencement of the 2010 championship, Schumacher stated his intent not to solely make up the numbers, but to win another championship. Partnered with Mercedes new boy Nico Rosberg, it was an all-German line-up for the German team going into their new époque.

It was clear that he had not lost his passion for the sport, and his raw desire to win. He was penalised in Monaco in his first year back for audaciously overtaking Fernando Alonso tantalisingly close to the safety car line at the end of the Grand Prix, but he had displayed the wily nature, extravagance and opportunism that had earned him so much success previously.

He finally earned his first podium since his return at the European Grand Prix in 2012, the same year he set the pole lap in Monte Carlo – although a penalty from the previous race in Spain denied him the front row start.

The on-track supremacy were not the only factor, however. His racing pre-eminence was also defined by his intelligent and cunning mind games. Nico Rosberg described how Schumacher would wait in the toilet during qualifying before the final run to make the eventual 2016 champion wait and effect his mentality and performance – with age had certainly come an abundance of wisdom.

These flashes of brilliance were not the only side of Schumacher’s enigmatic character though. The less alluring and more dangerous side came back with him. It was the same brutal nature that saw him wipe out Damon Hill in Adelaide to claim the 1994 crown in his Benetton days, and that saw him try, in many fans’ eyes, try to end Jacques Villeneuve’s race in Jerez in 1997. This particular attempt was futile however, as Schumacher took himself out of the race and left Villeneuve to take the title.

In many ways, his occasional on-track enmity was as a result of his excellence. His sheer will to win naturally came with an occasionally nasty overtone of jeopardy for those around him, as was discovered by Rubens Barrichello in Hungary when Schumacher very nearly sent him into the wall at speed down the pit straight. Lewis Hamilton was also less than impressed with the German’s antics at the Italian Grand Prix of 2011 – just two examples of Schumacher’s mentality leading him to uncompromising positions, and he overstepped the line on occasion.

It was evident, though, as he got deeper into his forties, that lapses of concentration and perhaps a drop in physical capacity had crept into his game.

Barrichello and Hamilton could argue that their incidents with him were a product of such, but more notable incidents of ungainliness come to mind. He misjudged his braking points in Singapore in 2011 and 2012, spectacularly wiping out Sergio Perez and Jean Eric Vergne respectively, and mych the same happened when trying to overtake Bruno Senna in Barcelona in 2012. And a very clumsy incident with Felipe Massa in 2010 affirms what, if he were a rookie, would probably be described as relative ineptitude. But this is a seven-time world champion, and in reality these moments were perhaps signs that the return may have been misjudged and ill-timed.

He finished ninth, eighth and 13th in the three years he had spent back, and was beaten by team mate Rosberg in all three seasons. He was, however, only an average of 0.2 seconds slower than him in 2010 and 2012, and was actually two tenths quicker in his final season. He had proven that, whilst he did not have the same magic and brilliant race-craft that he had before, he still possessed raw pace.

But ultimately he did not achieve what he set out to upon his return to the sport. He came back and gave it a go, demonstrating the qualities, some more discerning than others, that had made him the most successful of all time. But it was that unrelenting success in his prime that will be remembered, and not the return.

Images courtesy of Mercedes AMG / Wolfgang Wilhelm

Michael Schumacher – How the Rainmaster was born

Whilst Michael Schumacher had many incredible races, this is one of my favourites showing his incredible skill in changing conditions.

It was 1997 and it was the 12th race in the season which was taking place at Spa Francorchamps, Belgium.

Qualifying for the race had been dominated by Jacques Villeneuve (Williams-Renault) who secured pole position followed by Jean Alesi (Benetton Renault) in 2nd and Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) 3rd on the grid.

In the morning warm-up the weather conditions were hot and dry and Schumacher only managed 15th place.

However, about 30 minutes before the start of the race, an unexpected twenty minute heavy downpour changed the race conditions dramatically.
During the time the cars were assembling on the grid, Schumacher took the opportunity of making some exploratory laps of the track by returning to the pits rather than the grid in both his race car and the spare car, which had been set up for intermediate weather conditions. Schumacher chose to race in the spare car.

Whilst going to take his place on the grid, Schumacher’s brother, Ralf, who had qualified 6th on the grid, spun and crashed his Jordan at Stavelot, resulting in him starting from the pit lane in the spare car.

For the first time in Formula 1 history, the race was started behind the safety car.

Of the front running cars, both the Williams drivers and Alesi started the race on full wet tyres whilst the others were on intermediates. The pack remained behind the safety car for the first three laps and the proper racing began on lap four. Villeneuve was still in front followed by Alesi and Schumacher.

At the start of lap five, Schumacher made a brave move past Alesi on the inside of the La Source hairpin and then overtook Villeneuve at the Rivage loop to take the lead. By the end of lap five Schumacher had built a lead of 5.8 seconds over Villeneuve. Bear in mind, in real terms it was only the second lap of actual racing. He then continued at a truly unbelievable pace, increasing this to 16.9 seconds by the end of lap six, which in real terms was only lap three. He was truly in a class of his own.

Fisichella, who was driving for Jordan and had also started on intermediate tyres, was now in 2nd place after Villeneuve made an unexpected pit stop.

Schumacher was in control of the race and continued to pull away, and by the end of lap 12 his lead had stretched to a full minute. Following a second pit stop, Villeneuve had dropped to 16th.

The track was drying by this stage in the race and pit stops were taking place for slicks to be fitted to the cars. Schumacher pitted on lap 14 for his slicks and after re-joining the race, he eased his pace and controlled the race. He eventually crossed the finish line some 27 seconds ahead of the 2nd place car of Fisichella, followed by Heinz-Harald Frentzen in his Williams-Renault.

If Schumacher had continued at his original pace, who knows how far ahead of everybody he would have been.

Having started from pole, Villeneuve finished his race in 5th, which meant that Schumacher extended his lead over Villeneuve in the Drivers’ Championship to 11 points with 5 races left in the season. Ferrari led Williams by 6 points in the Constructors’ Championship.

I truly believe that this was one of Michael Schumacher’s best drives and it was at this race that he gained the title ‘the Rainmaster’, which was to stay with him for the remainder of his racing career.


Image courtesy of Mercedes Benz AMG F1 Team.

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