Michael Schumacher, the greatest racing driver of all time and seven times F1 World Champion finally bid adieu to Formula 1 after a truly illustrious career. F1 would never be the same without him as he holds virtually every record of the ultimate in motor racing i.e. Formula 1 including most wins 91, most championships 7, most career poles 68, most wins in a season 13, most consecutive wins 7, most podium finishes 155, most podium finishes in a season 17 (that is in every single race), most fastest laps 77.
I along with millions of his ardent fans across the world have followed his career very closely since his debut in late 1991. My interest in Formula 1 and car racing was triggered primarily by Schumi’s explosive arrival on the scene. Such has been his influence on Formula 1 that he was recently included in the world’s top 10 Influential Sportsmen, boasting the likes of Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, Imran Khan, Tiger Woods, Usain Bolt and Jahangir Khan amongst others.
F1’s mass appeal across the globe owes a lot to the high stature and charisma of Schumacher through which he inspired many from our generation to follow and actively participate in motor racing at some level. Quite a few races were scheduled in Asia including Malaysia, Korea, India, Abu Dhabi, Singapore over the past couple of decades primarily due to the popularity enjoyed by Michael at Ferrari.
Within a couple of years of joining F1, Schumi was destined to be a dominant figure in the sport. The revealation came in 1994, when despite having an inferior car as compared to the Williams of Racing legend Ayrton Senna, he was able to win the first couple of races and was leading the third when Senna died in a tragic crash while chasing Michael. Senna’s untimely death left a huge vacuum in F1 as he was at the time the most celebrated and naturally gifted driver on the grid. Although Senna’s tragic demise meant the sport was denied an opportunity to witness a massive rivalry between two of the greatest drivers of all time i.e. Schumi and Senna, it hardly took Schumacher much time to announce his arrival in F1 as an emerging legend.
Having won, two World Championships with Benetton in 1994-95 and given his sheer dominance, he would have quite easily won the title the next couple of years. However, at the end of the season he made the difficult and for some rather surprising choice of signing up for Ferrari. Given that Ferrari hadn’t won a World Championship since 1979 and was labeled a below average car given its performance it was a monumental challenge to try and reverse its fortunes.
What followed his arrival at Ferrari was a level of dominance that F1 or for that matter any sport had hardly ever seen. Not only was he the world’s highest paid driver but he was also the highest paid sportsman for a few years. Such was his success story at Ferrari that he won five consecutive world titles and owned virtually every record that existed in F1. FIA the world’s governing body had to introduce changes to the sport to somehow stop or slow down his juggernaut, but all in vain.
One of Michael Schumacher’s biggest talents was the sustained ability to drive the car to the very limit and beyond in crucial moments of the race. Driving in the wet is another hallmark of a racing legend and Schumacher was nicknamed the “rain king” or “rain master” for his incredible prowess in wet conditions as he managed to win 17 out of 36 wet races he competed in.
Looking back at his career, most people have no doubts whatsoever that he is the greatest racing driver of all time. For me personally and millions across the world he was much more than a sporting icon, his imperious driving style, natural talent and sheer moments of brilliance over the past two decades shall sorely be missed. He took racing to a level nobody ever can and his mercurial driving ability and genius on the track will always remain unmatched.
Asked how he would like to be remembered, he said: “I’m just a racer, that’s what I am….I’m racing till nothing works, nothing goes, full commitment… I go to the edge, I go to the limit and beyond and that’s my life.”
For me this epitomizes what Schumi is all about, he might have been mired in controversy occasionally and crossed the line a few times in his career. But being a passionate racing fan and driver, I can understand the adrenaline rush one feels while pushing the car over the edge.
He stands apart from the rest for his relentless pursuit of winning at all costs and extracting the optimum out of a machine which might have resulted in some regretful moments on the track.
A big thanks to the greatest driver who gave the wonderful memories and sheer moments of brilliance on the track to cherish. F1 will never be the same without him.