|An emotional Michael Schumacher announcing his retirement today|
The House of Power is in a state of mourning today after the announcement came that we were expecting (but nonetheless still dreading) that Michael Schumacher was retiring from Formula 1 for the second and surely final time.
There was to be no gloriously romantic swansong at Ferrari. In the end, the head ruled the heart and Michael decided himself it was time to step off the grand stage of F1.
Its been a long old bumpy road since Schuey launched his career in Formula 1 way back in 1991. John Major was Prime Minister. The Soviet Union was in the process of collapsing. This was the year when the World Wide Web became a publicly available service on the Internet. Bryan Adams held the no.1 spot for a record 16 consecutive weeks. And I was still at school. I think we can all agree that 1991 was A Very Long Time Ago. In life, and especially in sport, time waits for no man.
I am officially gutted with a capital G. But if Michael isn’t going to race in a genuinely competitive car again, then with the heaviest of hearts, I feel it is the right decision for him to retire. Ironically, he was the better driver of the two at Mercedes this season yet, in their infinite wisdom, they elected to stick with Nico Rosberg as
the number two driver team-mate to Lewis Hamilton next year. Yes,
he made a couple of dozy mistakes this season (show me a driver who hasn’t done
a few daft things in the odd race) but the potential success of his final
season in F1 was severely hampered by appalling (un)reliability and the inescapable
fact that he was driving an absolute dog of a car.
However, in this second phase of Schuey’s career, we have seen many more glimpses of the ‘real’ Michael Schumacher perhaps because of his struggles to attain previous heights. He has been much more open, relaxed and engaging second time round and his comments in his ‘retirement’ press conference earlier today I thought were very revealing.
“In the past six years, I have learned a lot about myself. For example, that you can open yourself without losing focus, that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning. Sometimes I lost this in the earlier years, though you appreciate what you are able to do and that you are able to live your convictions and I was able to do so.”
The overwhelming delight among the F1 fraternity and fans of the sport generally when Schuey got a podium at the Valencia GP was striking and heart-warming. Similarly, it was an utterly glorious moment when he took pole at Monaco in his final season in F1. The 43 year old Comeback Kid showed the likes of Vettel, Hamilton and Alonso just how it was done around the mean and tight and twisty streets at the Grand Prix They All Want To Win.
Yes, the last three years have had their controversial moments (eg. Barrichello in Hungary) but this is Michael Schumacher. He doesn’t do F1 any other way. So his return didn’t work out as hoped on a results basis but he leaves the sport more loved (of course there are some who will never be converted but many have been!) than he did upon his first retirement in 2006.
|6 more races and then its goodbye for ever...?|
So we have 6 more races with which to savour seeing the Great Michael Schumacher race. As unlikely as it is given the godawful Mercedes he has to drive, I would give ABSOLUTELY ANYTHING (well okay, my children aside!) to see him on the top step, or indeed any step of the podium again. You would have to have a heart of stone (or basically be a mean-spirited Jacques Villeneuve) not to want that for him.
For me Schumacher will always be a Ferrari driver and he is without question the greatest ever Ferrari driver in their long and illustrious history. His return to F1 in 2009 was such an incredible story and it was awesome just to see him race again. He would have known the reputational risks in returning to F1 in a new and unproven car but wasn’t afraid to give it a go. That showed real courage and that he wasn’t just in F1 for the money and the glory. At the end of the day, he loved F1 too much to stay away and the opportunity to relaunch a new Silver Arrows dynasty under Ross Brawn was just too tempting. After all you are a long time retired in sport, as indeed Schuey discovered first time round.
|The 5 year's drawing of Schumacher|
And there is one very important reason why I will never regret Schuey returning to the sport and that is that the 5 year old got to see him race. Whatever happens from here on now, Michael Schumacher was his first sporting hero. I broke the news to him today and asked who would be his new favourite driver now. The answer in a flash was Jenson Button (the husband has been clearly working on him!) so Button Watch will be coming to a blog near you from next season.
So Michael Schumacher heads off into the sunset with 7 world titles and 91 race wins (unless a fairytale ending awaits), one of which I was privileged enough to see in person (Monaco, 2001).
Thanks for the memories, Michael. You have been an absolute legend and F1 will never be quite the same for me again.