Michael Schumacher is a name synonymous with driving. Such is the impact that this man has had on the sport (Formula 1). But at what cost?
He is one driver in the world who has not changed his style of driving over the years and has come under immense criticism for that. But does he really care? Clearly no. He is unperturbed about what his fellow drivers, former teammates and what different people in the world say about his driving style. Each time he is on the race track, his formula seems to be simple – “win at any cost”.
Statistically, he is the greatest driver the sport has ever seen. He owns almost every record in Formula 1 – Most championships (7), most race wins till date (91), most pole positions (68), most fastest laps (76). One record he does not hold is most race starts, which belongs to Rubens Barrichello, who is still racing of course. He has not just beaten the previous records set, but has shattered them. Such is the weight of his racing statistics.
He is one driver in the world whom you can either absolutely love or totally hate. There are no two ways about it. He has got such a smooth driving style and is precision perfect on the track. You draw the racing line on the circuit and Michael glides on it all the way without deviation.
But apart from that, his other deviations are totally unacceptable. There are numerous incidents where he has exhibited unsportsmanlike behavior and most times got away with it. Eddie Irvine recently said in an interview that the “Michael Schumacher” name has come to Michael’s rescue many a time.
His list starts from the British GP in 1994, where he was disqualified for failing to observe a penalty handed out to him for overtaking Damon Hill on the parade lap. In the last race of the season in the same year, in Adelaide, where he was leading Damon Hill by one point, a driving error made him hit the wall, he rejoined the race, only to crash into the overtaking Damon Hill which handed Michael the driver’s title. There were far too many incidents that year including the death of the Great Ayrton Senna, and this incident went unpunished.
He tried the same thing in Jerez in 1997 (final race of the season again), when he dived into Jacques Villeneuve who was trying to pass him. This caused more damage to Schumacher than to Villeneuve as the latter continued and finished the race in third position and took the drivers’ Championship. Michael was disqualified from the 1997 drivers’ standings. His image had taken a big blow.
In Canada 1998, he was accused of dangerous driving when he forced Frentzen off track. Another shocking incident came in Austria in 2002, when Ferrari asked Barrichello to let Michael Schumacher take the race win, but Ferrari is more to blame here than Michael as the orders came from the team. Team orders were banned in Formula 1 thereafter.
Another unforgettable incident for him and his fans came in the 2006 Monaco GP where he parked his car so beautifully at the ‘La Rascasse’ corner and impeded Fernando Alonso’s final qualifying lap. He was penalized badly and had to start the race from the back of the grid.
The latest comes from this year’s Hungarian GP where he almost forced Rubens Barrichello into a concrete wall. Rubens later said that he was lucky to still be alive and Michael has come in for immense criticism from all quarters for his act. He later apologized for it, but his image had been further tarnished.
The question that really comes up is “Why should such a good and an immensely talented driver resort to such means”? Well, only Michael Schumacher can answer that one.
Undoubtedly, he will go down as one of the sports’ greatest drivers but not as a great Sportsman in the true sense of the term.