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“Thoughts on Michael Schumacher and Retirement”

October 4, 2012

Michael Schumacher announced his final retirement from Formula 1 at Suzuka this morning.

The seven-time World Champion found himself looking from the outside at Mercedes, where he will be replaced by Lewis Hamilton* from next season.

Schumacher’s comeback has not been the most successful. A single podium after 52 Grand Prix in a relatively good car has really not done his legacy justice, but it could also be argued that his performances have not lived up expectations.

The former Ferrari driver has been roundly beaten in the last three seasons by Nico Rosberg, a driver who hardly jumps out as a championship material. While Schumacher’s performances have improved somewhat this year, they have all too often been bookended by seemingly brainless incidents like his crash with Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore ten days ago.

At Ferrari, Schumacher was part of a dream team that took five drivers and six constructors titles between 1999 and 2004. With Jean Todt, Ross Brawn , Rory Byrne, Nicholas Tombazis and Nigel Stepney, the German steam-rolled through both his opposition and the record books.
But that team broke up long ago and Schumacher has looked all the worse for it since his return.

There is little doubt that Schumacher was the driver that redefined Formula 1 following the death of Ayrton Senna, in much the same way Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton redefined Formula 1 again years later, but an element of his legacy will always be tainted due some cars of questionable legality, tyres leveraged in his favour and dodgy on track tactics.

Some will consider Michael the greatest Formula 1 racing driver of all time; however in my eyes his sheen always appeared rather dull when under close examination. The really sad thing is his past three seasons at Mercedes may have robbed some young driver of a opportunity to make his/her mark on the sport.

There was the occasional stand out performances – Monaco 2010, Canada 2011 and Valencia earlier this year spring to mind, but a few good performances in three seasons is simply not good enough. Not at this level.
On the whole, drives like those delivered in Spa 1996, Hungary 1998 and Japan 2006 now seem so long ago. Probably because they are.

So goodbye Michael, it has been… interesting. Have fun doing… whatever it is you end up doing.

* {note 1}
I must admit neglecting to post about Hamilton’s move last week, but to be honest there were more interesting and time consuming things going on, so in a nutshell here are my thoughts:

  • Has he lost his mind?
  • OK fair enough, it probably is the right time to leave McLaren, after having spent what must feel like 32 years with the team.
  • Has he lost his mind?
  • From the outside, Mercedes give me the impression of a top-heavy team, who are too inflexible to adapt quickly and capitalise on sudden changes within the sport. Four technical directors alongside the recently hired Niki Lauda, do not make for a picture of clarity.

** {note 2}
And I still think Schumacher should have been banned for his move on Rubens Barrichello at the Hungaroring in 2010
.

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