The Michael Schumacher story, like all great stories, begins with a can of tear gas. What? That can’t be right? Or can it?
A little over twenty years ago, on the eve of his home Grand Prix Jordan’s Belgian driver Bertrand Gachot, in a moment of madness, or self-defense going by his take, got into an altercation with a London
But, what does any of that have to do with the German legend? As it happened, Eddie Jordan was desperately in need of a driver after Gachot was put behind bars. Schumacher’s longtime manager Willi Webber put forth his name.
Jordan had one criteria, he wanted a driver familiar with the demanding Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Knowing that Schumacher, born in Kerpen a few miles away across the German border, had never driven there, Webber put forth a stratagem. “Well, he was born 50 miles away from here. What do you expect!”
The rest as they say is
As Schumacher returns to Spa twenty years later, Hindustan Times asks the man who is arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time his most cherished moment on the asphalt. With 91 race wins and seven world championships singling one out is a task in itself. But, for Schumacher nothing tops winning his first world championship with iconic Italian manufacturers Ferrari, ending their 21-year title drought.
“I'd say it was in Suzuka 2000 (his most cherished moment). With this victory I finally won my first championship for Ferrari, after so many years fighting for it. For me it was an incredible outburst of emotion, it was such a relief! Plus, it was such a great race, totally satisfying also from a sporting point of view,” Schumacher tells Hindustan Times.
The win in the Japanese GP that year was the culmination of five years of sweat and toil. Joining the Italian team in 1996, when they were at their lowest ebb, Schumacher was at the forefront of one of the sport’s greatest turnaround.
In the intervening years, Schumacher was thwarted time and again by the silver McLaren of Mika Hakkinen. Something he remembers vividly.
Asked who he considers his greatest rival, the Finn was top on Schumacher’s list. “I am still grateful to Mika for pushing me the hardest he could,” he says.