Sunday, September 10, 2006



Michael Schumacher bids adieu to Formula one. News. Nearly 98% of the people knew this was coming. They said they read it in his body language. Some read it in his age. 37. But one comment that was on everyone’s lips was “Love him or hate him, but you can’t ignore the fact that he is the sport’s best to date.” Well, no one can agree more. You don’t have to take the critic’s word for it. Its in the figures. 153 podium finishes, 90 of them on the top step with 68 pole positions. Maximum race wins in a season. Longest reign as a world champion…. The records page is endless. A quasi rain God. By and far the only driver who can tame wet weather and win a race, not once but multiple times. He has made F1 driving an art. Watching the 7 times Westmeister tame the rest of the pack and emerge on top, is a sight to savor.

They nearly always attribute it to good machinery. No doubt, the Ferrari is a sterling car. However it was not always so. Ferrari was an ailing team, loaded with money, but low on talent and drive. Race engineers came and went, using Ferrari as a means to make a quick buck. None managed to deliver until the 3 musketeers Michael Schumacher , Jean Todt and Ross Brawn struck up a deal. Even then, they just somehow managed to breathe some life into the team, but failed to break the 20 year title-less run of Ferrari. They came close, by single digit points to clinching the ever-elusive title, but failed, with their predicaments being augmented by their star driver breaking his leg in an incident. Finally the wheel of fortune turned, and Ferrari began winning, in 2000, 2001,2002,2003 and 2004. and the whole world started doubting the team for foul play, calling them boring, calling Schumacher’s techniques mundane. No one wanted to enjoy the fact that they were watching history in the making. Here was a man with sheer talent and the drive and motivation to succeed and achieve, going for his goals and achieving them. Here was a man who turned down lucrative offers from successful teams to stick around with Ferrari and win with the ailing team. All Formula One drivers are in a class of their own. They are by and far the best drivers in the world. Running a successful company that is running like a well-oiled machine, does not need magic. However, turning a malfunctioning behemoth into one of the most venerated success stories ever, should not be shunned as the work of sheer luck or chance. A certain article in the papers went on to say that Michael Schumacher simply understood his machinery well. Well, granted, but isn’t that what all F1 drivers are supposed to do? How can a race engineer tweak your car, without understanding from you how it feels when you are inside it? If you come down to brass tacks, isn’t that the quintessence of the F1 driver’s job? So, if he understands his machinery well, isn’t he by and far the best in what he does? Isn’t he able to perform better than the rest of the people in his league?

Spoken like a true Schumi fan, you might say. I agree, I cheer for Michael Schumacher. But not because he always wins. But because he is the person that he is. Most people call him arrogant, haughty and an automaton. What they don’t realize is the fact that he has come a long way from being a young first son of a brick layer in Kerpen in Germany. He has come a long way from being the green eyed boy with stars in his eyes, but a few pennies in his pocket. He had the talent. He worked as a mechanic to understand how a car worked. He outclassed everyone else in smaller races, he caught the attention of a rich man, who agreed to finance his driving career. He did not have a father or brother in the industry. Whatever he is today, he can look back and feel proud that the edifice called ‘the legend of Michael Schumacher’ has been built by his hard work. He had a dream, he worked really hard to achieve it. He is still the shy man who refuses to open up to the public eye. Face it guys, he has had his fair share of media flogging, starting from his Benetton days to the wish-everyone-would-forget incident at Jerez. Just because he prefers to stick to his job and not discuss his favorite color in public, one cannot generalize and call him arrogant.

A certain correspondent said Michael’s farewell won’t evoke the emotion that Agassi evoked when he quit the sport. Well, for starters, Formula 1 does not enjoy as huge a fan base as Tennis. Till a few years back, although we had youngsters joining tennis academies aspiring to be the next Sampras, we did not have kids aspiring to be Michael Schumacher. In fact, Schumi was not even the topic of casual lunchtime discussions. He became a legend in the new millennium, when there was no looking back for Ferrari. And again, one question to be asked here is, why are sportsmen loved and idolized? Because they are vulnerable? Because they are more human? Because they are more easy to identify oneself with? Or is it because they show that spark and motivation, to succeed and be at the top of their game at all time, thereby exhorting the millions of their fans to excel in whatever they do? No one cheered for Rod Tidwell, in Jerry Maguire as long as he was playing a lackluster game. What made the fans write “IN ROD WE TRUST” all of a sudden, for the same man? Well, the answer is simple; he showed that he had the extra something to be the best. That is what role models are made of.

Michael Schumacher’s story is something all fairy tales are made of. Starting with a dream to make it big, working hard to go that extra mile, just to ensure his goal remains within reach, achieving all that he targeted, and finally quitting while he is still winning, this story of the multi-millionaire legend of F1, sounds straight out of a feel-good movie. And yet, this is one fairy tale that has come true

1 comment:

ramanan said...

Yes. Schumi is no doubt a great competitor and an amazing F1 Driver. Statistically, he may have equalled a lot of legends, but, still, he falls short of the great Alan Prost or the Senna or the Finn Mika Hakkinenn.... I mean no disregard to Schumi, as I have also loved him, but his ruthlessness on the track, in clipping Jenson Button, which earned him a fine, cannot be forgiven. At the end of the day, Sport is Sport. Competitiveness is ok or rather welcomed, but, it is still SPORT. In that department Shcumacher lacked. Not in technique definetely.