With an impressive thirty-six percent success rate of Grand Prix wins, hardcore Michael Schumacher fans will be wishing on a unique accolade coming into fruition for the coming seasons.
A three year contract at Mercedes Grand Prix could provide Schumacher with the opportunity to hit a three figure tally of victories. And if previous form dictates, the available fifty plus events will be more than enough to acquire the final nine conquests. This target therefore must surely be in the back of Michael’s and his followers minds. It will be an accomplishment that many will show an intrigue into its possibility.
There is no doubt that Michael is one of the finest representations of a Formula 1 driver. His dominations at Benneton and more gloriously at Ferrari portrayed at times absolute brilliance. When he was at his best he was truly remarkable.
Yet is the seven times world champion deserving of an accomplishment that would increase upon his current total of ninety-one triumphs and make his record even more unreachable?
When the 2004 season began no-one would have expected the control that would be exercised by Michael. Few would have predicted that he would destroy the competition by winning twelve of the first thirteen races. News-reporters began to read from memory as opposed to auto cue with the German’s solitary retirement in Monaco halting what would have been a wondreous run of thirteen straight wins.
For some it was a boring season that gave little excitement for the neutral supporters but for others it gave a glimpse of excellence in action.
This was Michael Schumacher at his most invincible.
It was not all too surprising however when you consider that he had won consecutive races on various occasions in the preceeding years. He had accompanied these feats also with various runs of continuing points and podium finishes that allowed us to witness a level of consistency and a lack of error that rewarded a special genius.
His constant repitition of this form helped him first to equal Alain Prost’s total of fifty-one victories, which then in hindisght appeared too easily accomplished as he blistered to an almighty amount of ninety-one triumphs by the time of his initial retirement.
In his illustrious career, defined previous records were demolished as Michael added achievement after achievement to his name.
To date he is decorated with titles such as the most wins at one track (France with 8 wins), the most podium finishes (154) and the largest tally of perfect scores (Fastest Lap, Pole Position, Race wins – totalling 22). These were to be among a long list of records that would be attained over the years.
As a result he statistically appears high and shoulders above everyone before, during and after him, providing easy access for those who are asked to defend him.
Of course many of his victories have been deemed as fairly undeserved, but the majority of them evolved from pole positions and flawless race days showings that afforded little chance of glory to any of his fellow competitors.
For any worthy champion however there must always be an air of consistency, respect and peer support to accompany the various statistics that allows a sports star their stunning status.
You know that for Michael Schumacher, compared to other modern greats such as Roger Federer, his many downfalls would go against the popular opinion of what is required to be considered worthy of similar admiration.
The vast amount of these downfalls were indeed self inflicted.
Some will never forgive Schumacher for his title deciding incidents with Damon Hill (1994), and Jacques Villeneuve (1997). Other incidents such as his collision in Belguim with David Coulthard and his qualifying controversy in Monaco in 2006 meant that his credibility appeared visibly reduced.
His career as a result was always to be overshadowed by such events that drew the sport into disrepute. Could Formula 1 really be grateful and complimentary of a driver who could not fight cleanly?
There was always a growing opinion that for all the good Michael did for the sport, he sadly balanced it out with an unattractive arrogance and awful individual driver decisions that flowed away from his teams intentions.
If you take away the victories that Schumacher gained through his lack of appreciation for his rivals and the spectators his tally of ninety-one would certainly decrease in its amount.
Certain instances of team orders, which directed Schumacher unfairly to the top step of the podium also did little to help the situation. Barrichello in his occasional forced delegation of victory at Ferrari, as well as the US Grand Prix fiasco of 2005 meant that Michael faced much unwanted criticism. Critics confirmed that his achievements appeared dishonest as a result.
Other drivers therefore were left with a smaller amount of triumphs than might have been possible if the battles had been fair and allowed. A modest tally of victories throughout the noughties were evident for drivers such as Barichello and Coulthard who suffered whilst team orders were permitted to go agains them.
Schumacher’s return to the sport in this respect may provide more difficult with respects to this though as the ban on team orders brought in since his retirement will do much to disfigure the allowance of previous related scenes.
Michael in being so close to one hundred victories will always be showered therefore in doubt and debates over his validity to further statistical accomplishments.
In a sport where luck can sometimes gift others undeserved victories (Kovalainen anyone?) Michael could be said to have combatted any questions of his talents with the seven seasons of drivers titles that elevated his status.
It is hard though to ignore though the occurences that have always plagued his career and reputation. His various outbursts of impulsive bad behaviour, whilst at times could be glossed over with brilliance, were for the most part hard to forgive.
It simply stands that whilst incidents such as his 1994 disaster with Hill could be passed over as normal racing incidents, his dramatic exit when deliberately driving into Villeneuve’s Williams in the 1997 title challenge could never be seen as such.
Michael could never have been regarded as a trusted competitor, whatever his results that followed were to be.
His revolotionary run of form in the noughties, which saw him break almost every record going, provided inspiration for many who took the wheel of a piece of magnificent machinery. It went some way into undoing the negative opinions that had hindred him beforehand, yet it became easier with reflection to look elsewhere for role models to portray the epitome of excellence.
Talents such as Jackie Stewart, James Hunt and of course multiple champion Fangio provided alternative and more appreciated motivators instead. They were talents that others could seek to emulate, and were void of the various consequences that were all to evident in Michael Schumacher’s career.
In years to come the youngsters emerging into the world of Formula 1 may want to remember that drivers are only disqualified from drivers championships for highly consequential misdemeanours.
A one hundredth victory for Michael could be seen as senational if it came into fruition, but sadly it would always be dogged by a past that would belittle it.
For the German’s faithful following it would indeed be an accolade defended to the end. But for many it would instead be a throwaway achievement unworthy of the recognition it may have and should have received if the history books were given a different view of the worlds most able racer.
This is likely to be an unwarranted view that only Schumacher himself could have deterred.