When dashing Brazilian Ayrton Senna was tragically killed at the Imola race track in 1994, there were F1 fans who swore the sport would never be the same again.
Twelve years later, fans have moist eyes yet again, this time not due to a crash or demise but the end of the Michael Schumacher era.
In a high-octane sport, where speed is the essence, when Schumi drove into the sunset at Interlagos, he left a mountain of records behind — most important, the seven world championship titles he won. Even reigning champion Fernando Alonso vouches that it is a magic figure which can’t be touched.
As Schumacher celebrates Christmas, he must be very relaxed, like Pete Sampras, who won a record 14 Grand Slam titles.
Yet, for a man who gets a taste of life away from the paddock, there must be one regret: He could not sign off on a winning note like Sampras. Sampras was missed, but his retirement did not really create a vacuum.
It may be incorrect to compare two legends. But the void which Schumacher leaves is so huge that millions of F1 fans will find it very difficult to switch on TV again on Race Days.
And the way Schumacher had to exit is hard to comprehend. Superstars plan their retirement and like to go out on a winning note.
In Schumacher’s case, it was Ferrari’s refusal to renew his contract that forced him to quit. Yet, for a man who leaves behind several controversies, the last act of ‘parking’ his Prancing Horse during qualifying at Monaco will forever remain etched in memory.
All the same, F1 can never be the same without Schumacher — good, bad or ugly?