I have been an unashamed admirer of Michael Schumacher for many years. Not a fan, but just someone who could acknowledge one of the finest driving talents ever to drop himself into a Formula One car.
But Schumacher has a very significant flaw in his makeup. He simply doesn’t know where to draw the line when it comes to defending his position on the racetrack.
Starting with Damon Hill in the championship decider in Adelaide in 1994, Schumacher has shown a willingness to use his car almost as a weapon to prevent others from passing him.
There are plenty of examples of Schumacher doing dumb stuff on the racetrack, but this weekend in Hungary, he plummeted to new depths of despicable acts. Schumacher came perilously close to causing a horrifying accident with Rubens Barrichello.
Schumacher’s former teammate had been closing inexorably in his Williams and, on lap 66, Barrichello was finally close enough to grab the slipstream and get past Schumacher on the main straight.
As Barrichello made the move, Schumacher moved over to squeeze the Brazilian against the wall and came within inches of causing contact while travelling at close to the car’s top speed. It was only through some very large cojones and some outstanding driving ability that the story had a happy ending.
Schumacher had every right to defend the inside line—it was the way that he did it that earned him a visit to the steward’s office. Slow motion replays, however, show Schumacher watching in his mirrors for Barrichello to pass before starting to move over on him in an attempt to intimidate Barrichello into abandoning the manoeuvre.
Of course, there is some significant history between these two drivers. Barrichello was forced to play second fiddle to Schumacher at Ferrari and there was considerable resentment from Barrichello about his view that he had been treated shabbily by the German champion.
Barrichello has also been doing some very public bad-mouthing of Schumacher to virtually anyone who would listen since their driving relationship at Ferrari ended.
After the race, Barrichello referred to the incident as “horrendous” and Schumacher’s driving as “crazy.”
Autosport.com quotes Barrichello as saying, "I have a lot of experience and usually with a crazy guy like that I would lift off, but not today, absolutely not.
"I think it has been one of the most beautiful manoeuvres I've done and one of the most horrendous from him. At the end of the day, we don't need that.
"To stop for three years and then come back and do something like that, we don't need it."
Schumacher, quite predictably, thought that he had done nothing wrong.
Not to be outdone, he hit back with, ‘“He had fresher tyres. I knew that he was coming, so I was making it obvious that he should go over to the right, where there is more room for [him], but he chose not to, so it got a bit tight. There are some drivers who have some ideas, then there’s Rubens.” (Formula1.net)
On the surface, it was a despicable act—the act of a fading champion, embittered by his failing abilities and inferior car. It was the act of someone with a personal axe to grind with a former teammate no longer shackled by team rules and with superior performance. It was the act of a man destroying what is left of his reputation and legacy.
It was, in short, the act of a man who no longer belongs in Formula One. Let’s see what the stewards think.