Thursday, 4 October 2012

Michael Schumacher: A Sort-of Appreciation

Naughty, naughty...

Formula 1 needs a villain, and for the last 20 years it has – for me – been Michael Schumacher.

An undoubted genius, he always seemed to be the man beating drivers who I supported: Damon Hill, David Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen.

But it was because he was so skilled that I hated him. “It’s getting boring, him winning everything”, I complained, deep down knowing it was only jealousy.

I mean, how dare one man so consistently win in a sport that is supposed to feed off chaos, crashes and unpredictability?

Not that Schumacher was a saint, of course. Parking his Ferrari to ruin Alonso’s pole position lap at Monaco ‘06 had me on my feet screaming for him to be banned. And the less said about Australia ‘94, the better.

Meanwhile, his air-horn-bearing fans did little to endear themselves to me; remember the 'Kill Hill' T-shirts?

Then he retired and Alonso stepped up as the pantomime villain, winning lots and following Schumacher to be the anointed one at Ferrari.

And then Schumacher came back and – to my own surprise – I was happy about it.

Sufficient time had passed for me to respect him as the super-talented driver he was and I wanted to see him race against Lewis Hamilton and an invigorated Jenson Button.

But, of course, the last 3 years have borne no fruit and these days he has to make do with chasing one or two points on a Sunday afternoon.

Retiring (again) is the best possible thing he could have done; let’s remember the man for a great – if flawed and occasionally dangerous – driver while he’s not some embarrassing old fool, pointlessly bumbling around in an HRT.

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