Not even the avid Formula One fans believed, anyone could make such a comeback in a high octane sports as F1. But Michael Schumacher, the record seven time World Champion, in his forties, proved everyone wrong. Admittedly it was not the comeback he would have liked, not being able to win any races, but getting points and even a podium with his Mercedes which was no match for the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens was quite an achievement in its own. He was undoubtedly disappointed at his performances some of them due to sheer bad luck, but in between he showed glimpses of his illustrious past. That showed the vulnerability and infallibility of a former champ when things don’t go your way. Michael Schumacher arguably is one of the best Formula one drivers of this era, with a record once considered unassailable, till the golden haired Red Bull boy Vettel, another German challenged that authority and burst on the scene with four consecutive World Championships. His sheer dominance when in his prime is beyond doubt and his work ethic unquestionable.
Whether the mighty Schumacher be able to make another comeback this time, is a big question mark. This time the odds are again not on his side and it is a much more difficult task at hand, things which are controlled by the nature and the Omnipotent above there, not entirely in his own hands. The news is that the doctors are just beginning to take him out of his medically induced therapeutic comatose state after nearly four weeks in the Grenoble Neurosurgical Unit, which is famed for treating many a skiing injuries caused by falls in the surrounding slopes of the French Alps.
The most extraordinary driver’s origins were most ordinary, as is the case with most great men in history. His father, a bricklayer, ran the local kart track, where Mrs Schumacher operated the canteen. As a four-year old Michael enjoyed playing on a pedal kart, though when his father fitted it with a small motorcycle engine the future superstar promptly crashed into a lamppost. But Michael quickly mastered his machine and won his first kart championship at six, following which his far from affluent parents arranged sponsorship from wealthy enthusiasts that enabled Michael to make rapid progress. By 1987 he was German and European kart champion. In 1990, at the age of 21, he won the German F3 championship and was hired by Mercedes. The next year he made a stunning Formula One debut, qualifying an astonishing seventh in a less than ordinary Jordan at Spa, whereupon he was snapped up by Benetton, with whom in 1992 he won his first F1 race, again at Spa.
Over the next four seasons with Benetton he won two world championships. He showed his worth against the likes of Ayrton Senna beating him on a few occasions till his untimely death at the San Marino Grand Prix. Not without courting controversy, as the great champions before and after him, on many an occasion, especially his collisions with Damon Hill and Villeneuve in the title deciding races, the latter one docked his second place in the Championship as punishment. After winning his second title in 1995, he went to Ferrari which hadn’t won a title since 79. The Ferrari family affair didn’t blossom from the start. After finishing second overall in 1998, Schumacher’s 1999 season was interrupted by a broken leg (the only injury in his career). The fruits borne by his sheer determination, intelligence, dedication and an endless quest for improvement work brought five consecutive World titles, bringing his tally to 7, overhauling the great Fangio in the record books he would thereafter begin to rewrite. Such was the domination by Schumi led Ferrari, in 2002 he won 11 races and was on podium in all 17. In 2004, he won 13 out of the 18 races, the title a foregone conclusion and Ferrari being the Constructors Champions the umpteenth time.
Being supremely talented, adapting to changing circumstances, bold overtakes and manoeuvres, highly skilful driving in adverse weather conditions was what set him apart from his peers. His fitness was amongst the best, even in his forties as testified by his fellow drivers. He was keenly aware of the limitations of his car, never losing any opportunity to score points in the races he knew he couldn’t win. His feedback to the team, which is vital for any car development was invariably excellent and helped develop Ferrari into a world beater in the late 90s and early part of the 2000s, winning six consecutive Constructors Titles. He was very close to the mechanics, team members, always thanking and encouraging them for their role in this high intensity team sports
Finishing second in the 2006 championship, the aging superstar still at his peak, having won 7 races to bring his tally to 91, decided to hang up his helmet. But the boredom of home lured him back to the fast lanes of F1 in 2010. Michael Schumacher said of the second part of his career. “It wasn’t as successful as before but I still learned a lot for life. I found that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning. Now is a good time to go.”
We still believe it is too early for Schumi to go. A man once in complete control at the wheels, has lost his grip on life. Only time will tell, whether he would be able to regain his full physical and mental functions. It is a long dark tunnel with a faint glimmer of hope. The helmet undoubtedly saved his life in the Alps, but whether he would rue his escapade or not, we can only guess. Our thoughts and prayers for the man who lit the fast lanes of Formula One for his millions of fans worldwide.