20 years of adrenaline pumping. G-force sustenance. At the highest level. Consistently. And still going strong.
I’ve been itching to write on one of my greatest passions for a very long time; yet today when I’ve begun, I am out of words. On the other hand, there could not have been a better way and a more symbolic occasion. One of the greatest sportsmen and achievers of all time, Michael Schumacher completes 20 years, 26th August 2011, in Formula 1 today.
Michael Schumacher, up close in his Petronas Mercedes F1 car. For more photos on the Petronas Mercedes F1 Team, click here.
Schumacher began his career with karting before progressing to Formula 3 and ultimately Formula 1. His first wheel came behind the Jordan Formula One team as a replacement driver in 1991 at the Belgian Grand Prix. His hunger to excel at the pinnacle of the sport made everyone take note. On a circuit he never drove before, Schumacher cycled his way around the track before qualifying a stunning 7th. He didn’t start the race with a clutch failure on the grid, but it was enough for Benetton to quickly sign him up. And there was no looking back. A couple of seasons later he won his first world title and the living legend today has 7 world titles, 5 of them being consecutive, 91 race wins, 68 pole positions and 76 fastest laps to name a few; and he still hasn't lifted his foot off the gas pedal.
Schumacher has records to boast and ones that might never be broken. The debate on whether he is the all time greatest can go on forever, but even the antagonists cannot deny that he is one of the all time greatest, if not the greatest. The late great Ayrton Senna once remarked, “By being a racing driver you are under risk all the time. By being a racing driver means you are racing with other people. And if you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, competing to win. And the main motivation to all of us is to compete for victory, it's not to come 3rd, 4th, 5th or 6th.” Michael too has always gone for those wins. In the bargain, he has faced criticism several times for his dangerous driving and tactics, but you cannot take away the stunning drives he has relentlessly produced over the years.
Schumacher in action in his Petronas Mercedes GP car at the 2011 Malaysia Grand Prix. For more photos on Michael Schumacher, click here.
He is an absolute rain maestro and is sublime on the corners. He joined Ferrari when it was in the dumps and took the team to great heights. His colleagues and race engineers report him as great team player who continuously works with them to get that extra bite of the car. Yes, there have been times when he has had a superlative car with no competition, but the domination he showed in those times makes him the legend he is. Not to forget, the times when there was no hope in his slow moving car and Schumi, as he is popularly known, produced magic to take pole position by half a second. You cannot ignore the Schumi touch and resolute fitness levels, evident that there was minimal change in him when he got off the car after a gruelling race, while younger counterparts looked exhausted (he ran an astounding 20 km daily as part of his fitness regime).
It was my greatest dream and desire to meet my idol in person, which almost went off the window with his retirement in 2006. However, when he made a comeback at the age of 41 in 2010, the spark to meet him was back. Yes, the dream did come true for me when I met him in person in 2011, a feeling I will treasure all my life. And if you thought what a 42-year old is doing driving in Formula 1, he just went fastest in the first practice at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Schumi, as he is popularly known, has lost no hunger in racing. Here seen racing Force India F1's Paul DiResta. For more photos on Formula 1, click here.
I’m going use a line I so love – If they ever tell my story, let them say that I did not walk with giants. Men rise and fall like the winter wheat, but these names will never die. Let them say I lived in the time of Michael Schumacher, one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all times!
If Formula 1 is religion, Schumacher has to be God!