“Bye-bye mein lieber Herr, farewell mein lieber Herr, it was a fine affair, but now it’s over….”
You won’t have missed the news that Michael Schumacher has, again, retired from Formula One motor racing this morning. He has, of course, again, been retired from F1. Just as his old boss Luca de Montezemolo pushed him out in 2006 to make way for Kimi Raikkonen, so his latest boss Ross Brawn has eased him out to make way for Lewis Hamilton.
It says a lot about Schumacher that, on both occasions men he probably considered allies, friends even, haven’t hesitated to do the dirty on him. Michael Schumacher lived and raced by the sword, and so he must accept he’s going to engender a similar ruthlessness in others.
Don’t get us wrong, if we have one wish for the last six races of the 2012 Grand Prix season it is that Michael Schumacher might trouble his own record of 91 wins and 68 pole positions, something he has failed to do in his comeback so far. And yes, of course there was that astonishing pole position lap in Monaco, but then of course he wasn’t able to start from the front because of a penalty for the kind of silly mistake that’s become totemic of the comeback, driving in to the back of Bruno Senna. He starts with a similar penalty this weekend in Suzuka having repeated the offence on Jean-Eric Vergne.
Like the man on the radio said “what happened there? What happened there?”.
There are all kinds of reasons, all very solid, as to why the Mercedes F1 team has not performed. We get that, but it’s a shame we didn’t get more from Michael mk2. Nico Rosberg, his team mate these last three years, is no superstar. Nobody, not once, suggested he might be on Ferrari or McLaren’s shopping list. And yet Schumacher has not dominated, like we thought he could have, should have.
Still, the comeback has had two effects. One, somehow, it has increased the net love for the man. There’s a huge amount of respect out there this morning. We seem to have collectively forgot all about some of things Bad Michael did last time round. And do we need to list all his transgressions here?
The second effect is rather more profound. It’s opened up not only a reassessment of Michael’s first career and the oft-questioned legality of the Benetton cars he drove to his first two championships, but also the intense and unmatched focus Ferrari and partners Bridgestone brought to delivering the period of utter domination during which Michael notched up another five. It’s hard to recall now how much Ferrari needed that success after a long period of drought, and the lengths they were prepared to go to.
There’s been less focus on the competition Michael faced then versus now. Until the arrival of Alonso, Schumacher only really needed to fear Mika Hakkinen in his first career, and he did. In the second career he’s had Alonso, but also Hamilton, and Vettel and a whole gang of young guns just itching to shoot the old cowboy down. You only have to eavesdrop the pre-podium chat to hear the way they talk about “Michael…”. They might as well be calling him ‘Uncle Michael’. We don’t get the impression they rate him as much this time round.
Do we think he should have come back? It’s debatable: the legend has definitely been given a tarnish. But are we grateful he did? Hell yes. It’s been a great story and one the Sunday Afternoon Club fervently hopes is not over yet…