I feel that many Formula One fans (and wikipedia’s article on this race) completely overlook what took place at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix.
Let us, fans or not of Michael, not feel pain and sorrow towards how Michael Schumacher’s career ended on that day. To be honest, it could not have ended better.
Why you ask?
Because instead of watching Schumacher pass nine drivers to win a race in which he started 10th, we were able to witness the behind-the-curtain Schumacher, the Schumi that demonstrated how he can “dominate” in the way he can. This seems to always have been hidden away, because many times he will start in first place, stay in first place, and finish in first place.
When you think of why Senna is thought of as a legend, it is his ability to fly through a pack with a lesser machine. When you think of why Schumacher is thought of as a legend, it’s because of his statistics, and you think—“should we Really take Schumi as a God of motor sport when all he did 90 percent of the time was just get a pole and lead the race?"
The 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix was one of those races (such as some of his memorable Spa drives) when this was proven wrong.
When the contact with Giancarlo Fisichella occurred, and the tire failed (unfortunately for Michael, at the beginning of a lap where immense time would be lost getting back to the pits), and every driver passed him, we all thought, “Oh No! He will finish in 10th or worse!"
But that was not what Mr. Schumacher had in store for the world. We watched him plow through the field to gain 55 seconds on Jenson Button, and get right on his gear box (and I use Button (who finished third) as a mark instead of Fernando Alonso because one could argue that Alonso was being very conservative in his driving, although Button was pushing as hard as he possibly could).
If Michael hadn’t had the two distinct three-or-five-second hiccups during his super stride to the front of the field, a podium position was without a doubt. To me, this is surely one of his greatest drives, and with it being: A) His final race, and B) The fact that he went to Ayrton Senna's grave that weekend (and was in tears because of his great respect for Senna), it was an inconceivably emotional one as well.
This, added to the fact that the amazing drive did not get him on the podium nor the championship, made it a very historical/melancholy day for true race fans. If that all isn’t enough, he got the Fastest Lap of the race with two laps left, and I can’t even describe to you what I felt at that moment.
That day we were able to witness once again how, as I call them “plain statistics”, can only represent a small factor in true greatness, as he didn't win anything at all; a podium, the race itself, the constructor’s championship, or the driver’s championship. I admire Formula One fans particularly for this reason, because as the greatest example goes, Ayrton Senna's "plain statistics" can't come close to matching Schumacher’s in some category’s, but he is still regarded more than any other driver, as the “Best of All Time”.
This is because we saw him race, and don't need to know the statistics behind it. Another example would be the sometimes mind-boggling Gilles Villeneuve, where even though he had a mere six wins and zero championships, many put him in their top-three list, because we watched what he could do with an automobile.
With his driving, Schumacher also showed us that “it doesn’t matter who won what, Ferrari is still the head team, and he is still the best the world has to offer even though he’s retiring. Even the man who took Schumacher’s spot, Kimi Raikkonen, was brilliantly passed in the closing laps (yes, he went for that inside pass on the marbles!) when he thought his fourth place was fully secured.
Lastly, Renault was so very worried that week about "illegal tactics" that Ferrari might use to win both championships. With all the power that Ferrari had “bribe” wise, between multiple teams and different drivers, from Ralf Schumacher, Michael’s brother, to Kimi Raikkonen, a future Ferrari driver, they could have “done” something.
But did they?
Not at all.
In fact, Giancarlo Fisichella and Renault were, if anyone, the driver and team who pulled the "illegal tactic" when Giancarlo got too close to Michael, after Michael had cleanly made the pass on him (although you could play that particular incident off as a racing incident, but most are well aware that Fisichella, if presented with an opportunity, wanted to carry out “something” concerning a definite Schumacher demise to help his team Renault and teammate Alonso).
Notice when Michael charged back to Fisichella at the end of the race, Fisichella got quite petrified, missed the corner and went right off the track! For one, he couldn’t believe that Schumacher had come back from almost utter destruction to pass him with no yellow flag help, and after his long limp back to the pits staring from turn two all the way around the circuit at a dreadfully slow speed.
“Giancarlo, Michael is coming up on you, this is for position....yes this is for position....”
So in the end, let all of us not be downed and distraught by the "plain-statistical" results of that race. For it was a grand finale to the end to one of the greatest dynasties in sports history.
Now we must see what the next portion of Michael Schumacher’s career is in Formula One. For now, instead of being the man who sits down in the driver’s cockpit of the Ferrari to win races, he is the man who walks 'round the prancing horse machine, vigorously scribbling important notes, in hopes of gaining maybe one more thousandth of a second on the competition...and I think F1 fans are very pleased to see he hasn’t left the sport at all.