Never say never, goes the dictum. So instead of bidding a warm goodbye to German Formula One driver Michael Schumacher when he retires from the sport for the second time at the end of the season, watch out for any unexpected announcement of his return to the racing track. But if, unfortunately, that is not the case, then his Indian fans must make the most of the occasion and thank the ace driver for the indirect but significant role he played to make the Indian F1 race a reality.
Ever since cable TV and live broadcasts of F1 started in India nearly 20 years ago, racing enthusiasts have had the good fortune of witnessing 89 of Schumacher's victories, all seven titles and six seasons in which he was a contender for the driver's title till the last two races of the season. And let's not forget that Schumacher always gave the F1 viewers something to talk about: his brilliance, scary on-track aggression and his legendary preparation. He became the yardstick by which F1 drivers and teams were measured throughout its history. Fans can argue about the merit of his statistics but they can't ignore the role it played in shedding light on the sport's eventful 63 years. This created a sustained interest in the sport that made hosting a Grand Prix in India feasible. After the success of the Indian GP, long-time F1 journalists admitted that it was far beyond anything they had seen in the China, a financially important event.
However, an inconsistent Mercedes team only managed to hide from the world just how good Schumacher still is: it takes a lot to set the fastest time in qualifying for the Monaco Grand Prix at the age of 43. But last year Indians were lucky enough to witness the German's hard-driving: Schumacher recovered from a poor qualifying session to finish a strong fifth. Schumacher is/was not only a racing star but a total package: a controversial genius who could be ruthless, dangerous, infuriating as well as mesmerising. A legend, whichever way you evaluate him.