Champions sign off in style, as Michael Schumacher did when he bid farewell to Formula One at the Brazilian Grand Prix last Sunday. The seven-time world champion couldn’t have chosen a better way to end his 16-year career than with a stirring drive from last to fourth place against the odds in the Brazilian sunshine. He leaves Formula One with 91 wins and a string of records that may never be beaten.
But statistics alone aren’t the reason for the unmistakable sense of closure felt by the racing fraternity and fans after Schumacher’s retirement. His cynical approach to motor racing and the number of uncontested victories he engineered with Ferrari underline the scale of difficulty the sport faces without him. If Schumacher was F1’s superstar, he was also perhaps its flawed genius, with too many controversies surrounding him to walk away with everyone’s admiration. No doubt, his unorthodox tactics sometimes resulted in incidents that saw him bending the boundaries of acceptability. But then, this is subjective. As long as F1 drivers break no rules, it’s unfair to complain.
In Schumacher’s case, he won so much that it’s obviously easier for critics to remember the few negative things about him than the many positives he achieved. Unfortunately, his fierce sense of privacy, and his ruthless, cold and arrogant driving didn’t make things any easier for him. While his status in the pantheon of racing greats will be argued for a long time to come, the run of teamwork that he forged with Ferrari — inarguably the most amazing the sport has ever seen — cannot but be applauded.