Michael Schumacher is getting on a bit.
At 43 years old, he's well short of the oldest driver to enter a race (Louis Chiron holds that record at 58). He’s not even too old to succeed—the great Juan Manuel Fangio was world champion at 46.
But he did seem to have a bit of a “senior’s moment” at the start of the 2012 Hungarian Grand Prix.
After delivering his worst qualifying performance for a Hungarian GP—managing only 17th place—and crashing in the wet during the second free practice session, it’s difficult to imagine that things could have got worse.
But they did.
While there are conflicting reports as to why the start of the race was aborted, there's little doubt that Schumacher was the cause.
Video from the track clearly shows that the 17th grid spot was empty when they lined up for the start.
Either way, he compounded that problem by turning off his engine as it was starting to overheat—he was apparently under the assumption that the yellow lights were a problem with the start system—and he was consequently left sitting on the grid while the others went off on a second formation lap.
All pretty embarrassing really, but he hadn’t finished yet.
After being pushed into the pits to have his engine restarted by the team, he compounded his problems by apparently neglecting to engage his pit speed limiter and earned himself a penalty for speeding in the pit lane before the race had even begun.
This simple error is made worse because he was forced to sit at the pit exit and wait for the entire field to go past before he could start anyway.
That shouldn't have been a surprise to someone with his experience.
Schumacher then inexplicably picked up a puncture on his first lap while running by himself in clear air and had to head in for new tyres before he could serve his drive-through penalty.
All that was missing was the Benny Hill music, and perhaps a cream pie in the face, to complete the comedic sequence of events.
In the end, Mercedes retired the car to give them free rein to make whatever changes they need to without penalty—making the most of a nice little loophole in the regulations—and possibly to ensure that Schumacher was hit by a meteor or have some other disaster befall him.
Schumacher’s antics did add a little colour to an otherwise tense, but uneventful, race that saw Lewis Hamilton claim victory from pole and Renault pair Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean claim the minor places.
Elsewhere, Pastor Maldonado showed that he's an equal opportunity bully, this time hitting Force India’s Paul di Resta and forcing him off the track.
While Maldonado received a drive-through penalty for his trouble, it will come as no surprise that he didn’t see that he was to blame.
The circus now enjoys a five-week break before this fascinating season starts its charge to a hopefully exciting conclusion.
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