Michael Schumacher: the very name plunges my mind into frenzy; a frenzy abuzz with the zooming sound of the fastest cars on this planet, lapping on the most astonishingly smooth and curvy roads ever made; throngs of people watching from the stands, the nail-biting scene underway right in front of their eyes, amongst them however the distinct chant of the Tifosi fills the atmosphere with the sense that there exists only one colour: Scarlet, one team: Ferrari and one man: Michael Schumacher…..
The seven time formula one champion, Michael Schumacher’s passion for racing began at age four when his father, a German brick layer, built him a kart and soon after enrolled him in the local kart club Kerpen Horrom. His tryst with ultimate speed began in 1991 when he burst into the F1 scene at Spa-Francorchamps in the Belgian Grand Prix as a Jordan-Ford driver. He however was forced to retire from the race on the first lap itself due to clutch failure. But as they say great stories start with modest beginnings. Overnight Schumacher shifted to team Benetton, and his first victory came in 1992, a year after his debut. Schumacher won his first championship in 1994 which involved a thrilling but controversial contest with Damon Hill in the last race of the season. After another grilling season against Damon hill, Michael conquered his second title victory in 1995.
1996 marked the association of Ferrari and Schumacher which was later to show the F1 world what winning and leading from the top comprised of. Michael landed with the largest single season contract in racing and perhaps in the history of sports: $27 million per year. The Ferrari car that year was not amongst the best machines on track, but Michael proved his mettle by showing that winning requires more than just a good car. The display of his uncharacteristic over steering technique and sheer grit during the year’s rain splashed Spanish GP led to him being hailed as the ‘Rain-God’! Ferrari celebrated its best season in years as Michael won 3 races with a car which was nothing but average. In 1997 ‘Schumi’ came within one race of winning his 3rd F1 title, but a much debated move by him, spinning both him and his season rival Jaques Villeneuve out of the race. The 1998 contest with Mika Hakkinen went down in history as one of the most intense and thrilling fights for the title.
Michael then went on to win the 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 seasons. His pace, passion, competitive spirit, aggression and the never-say-die attitude took the sporting world by storm. This phenomenal record speaks for itself. His sixth title in 2003 beat Juan Manuel Fangio’s long standing record of five championships from the 1950s! The domination of the ‘Winning Machine’, as he later came to be known, can be sensed from the fact that he sealed his 7th title win in 2004 much before the end of the season, winning 10 out of the first 11 races that season. According to http://www.mschumacher.com/ , Michael also holds the F1 records for: most career wins (91), most wins in a season, most career pole positions, most points during a season (148 in 2004), most consecutive world championships (5), most consecutive race wins (2004), most podium finishes (154), most laps leading, most fastest laps (76) among several others.
Through his career, Michael has been involved in several controversies, but then the story of greatness would be an oversimplification if it wasn’t spiced up by the critics!
The Formula One world came to a standstill at Interlagos in Brazil (2007) when Michael retired after a race that bore testimony to his class and passion for the sport. In an awe-inspiring display of exuberance, aggression and sheer speed, Michael after an initial hiccough came back and overtook every car on the racing track. Though he could not manage a podium finish yet he left nothing more to be desired. His performance had class stamped all over it.
Formula One for me is not the same anymore. After years of associating F1 with Michael Schumacher alone, his absence in every race that I watch is nothing short of an emotional moment. Michael has clearly joined the rank of Formula One immortals. ‘Schumi’, you were, are and shall always remain F1’s greatest gem and of course the undisputable Formula One King. Hail Schumacher!