Michael Schumacher: Consumate Racer or 4-Wheeled Thug?

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Michael Schumacher: Consumate Racer or 4-Wheeled Thug?
Vladimir Rys/Getty Images
Michael Schumacher: Not to be underestimated!

The Michael Schumacher of old decided to pay a visit to Monza at the 2011 Italian Grand Prix—much to the annoyance of a strangely conservative Lewis Hamilton.

The German maestro was back to his belligerent, frustrating best as he held Hamilton at bay for 28 laps with a combination of superior top end speed, ruthless car positioning and sheer determination.

Schumacher has a hard-earned reputation as being one of the most difficult drivers in Formula 1 to pass.

He is immune to pressure tactics. There is no point whatsoever weaving and feinting behind him—he’s seen it all before. If you’re going to try to pass, there is absolutely no room for doubt or second-guessing.

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.

In Hungary in 2010, he came perilously close to smearing former teammate, Rubens Barrichello along the pit wall as the veteran Brazilian had the audacity to attempt an overtaking move.

Did Schumacher act unfairly at Monza?

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Schumacher was widely condemned for that move and it seemed to strike home with the seven-time champion.

There’s just something about Monza.

It’s a circuit steeped in so much history and tradition and performing well here means so much to drivers, young and old alike.

Schumacher and his Mercedes got a cracking start, depositing himself into an unlikely third position from eighth on the grid and avoiding the first corner carnage brought about by Vitantonio Liuzzi’s reverse entry to the corner.

From there, he held the McLarens at bay, shutting the door brutally whenever Hamilton made a passing move.

The decisive move came on lap 16 as Hamilton got a brilliant drive out of the first chicane and made a move up the inside of Schumacher who responded by forcing the Brit onto the grass.

Hamilton had to back off, allowing Jenson Button to pass before he went on to slice past Schumacher in the DRS zone heading into the Ascari chicane. Button made his first chance stick, avoiding the frustration of his younger teammate.

Although Hamilton eventually made it past, his race was ruined and he battled in vain to catch Alonso to get the final spot on the podium.

 

There will be a lot of debate as to whether Schumacher crossed over some imaginary line of what is acceptable and what constitutes poor sportsmanship.

Certainly team principal, Ross Brawn, was concerned that Schumacher was flirting with what was acceptable within the rules, twice reminding his driver to “leave room” for Hamilton at the Ascari chicane.

Former drivers David Coulthard and Martin Brundle, who anchor the BBC’s F1 coverage, thought that Schumacher had gone a fraction too far with his treatment of Hamilton.

The stewards, however, disagreed.

Schumacher eventually finished fifth and took the limelight away from his younger and more competitive teammate taken out in the first corner incident.

He may no longer be in the running to win races, but it’s foolish to underestimate his ability. He can still influence the outcome of races.

There’s life in the old dog yet.

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