Winning is not everything in F1
And that is ironical as Schumi's career revolved around beating the hell out of other drivers, writes Atul Sondhi.india Updated: Oct 23, 2006 15:43 IST
The world's best driver ever, and the worst-ever odds staked against him.
With defending champion Alonso leading by ten points, the equation was simple for Michael Schumacher.
The German had to win the race from the tenth spot on the grid, thanks to a mechanical problem in the qualifiers. And Spaniard Alonso had to fail to finish among the points, which, in turn, would have required nothing less than a mechanical failure in Renault!
He should have given up. But he didn't! When the race did start, it should have been over for any other driver by the ninth lap. But not for Schumi!
The seven-time World Champion, in a stunning manoeuver did overtake Fisichella to speed up to a fifth place, but suffered a rear puncture. The man who had invariably thrived on his pit-stop strategy, was immediately forced to take an unscheduled stop, which put him among the back-packers.
To his credit, the former champion never gave up. He showed his Teutonic resolve and roared back in typically aggressive manoeuvres, to eventually finish fourth.
The man with maximum podium finishes in the history of Formula One and the maximum individual and career titles - a record that will need a superhuman to beat - failed to finish among the top three!
The German, who so admirably beat the challenge of wet weather at China on October one to win the Shanghai Grand Prix from sixth place on the grid, could not beat the element this time.
On that day, the title looked his for the taking as at chequered flag, a fist waving and Jubilant German managed to tie at 116 points with Alonso. To cap it, he had a one-race win advantage and this remarkable position came after overcoming a staggering 25 point lead that Alonso had gained over his championship rival after winning the Canadian Grand Prix on June 25.
But Schumacher was simply not destined to be the eventual winner. With little bit of luck, and little less of mechanical problems, perhaps the legendary German would have won the final race of his career. But even in his misery, he had a chance to showcase all his skills. The skills, and a brain, which made him thrive amidst all adversity.
History too, will judge Schumacher harshly. It is not that he had always played fair. There have been many instances where he did not play the ideal champion driver's role to perfection. The most infamous was in Australia Grand Prix when his collision with Damon Hill of Britain put both the drivers out of the race. And Schumacher won the crown by one point!
But then, the other six championship victories had more to do with tactical genius than any wrongdoing. The brilliant journey which started from his first win in Belgium in 1992, fetched him a record 91 wins, including seven in his farewell season.
The two men who follow Schumacher on top-title winners list are Alain Prost of France with 51 titles Brazil's Ayrton Senna with 41. Considering these two have collectively just one title more than Schumacher, the German's record can only be called mind-boggling.
But Schumacher did miss on another Championship crown, after looking all set to claim it earlier this month. It was more due to mechanical problems than some skillful manoeuvring from his rival Alonso. It was as if God wanted to assert his supremacy over a great champion.