“He is the greatest driver to have ever turned a wheel for Ferrari, my son. There are no two ways about it,” an 83-year-old father said to his 25-year-old son. The day was Sunday, October 22, 2006; Michael Schumacher’s final Formula One grand prix before retirement at the Interlagos circuit in Brazil.
“Thirty years of watching this sport and I have never seen the likes of such a driver and doubt I ever will.”
The old man wouldn’t. He died on Tuesday.
The Octogenarian was, in fact, my father - a lifelong Ferrari fan. He left this world a happy man, rejoicing “that incredible overtaking maneuver” Schumacher pulled on Kimi Raikkonen after recovering from a puncture to finish a stellar fourth position. Dad even took out half-an-hour of his last day in this world to discuss Michael’s incredible career.
The seven-time world champion truly left his best for last, showing his replacement at Ferrari that he was still the yardstick every driver needed to measure himself against. It was this sort of determination and will to succeed that made him an inspiration for millions of households like mine.
I still remember watching his win at the Japanese Grand Prix in 2000, when against all odds; he crossed the line ahead of Mika Hakkinen’s vastly superior McLaren to clinch Ferrari’s first driver’s world championship in 21 years. I was 19 at the time and had therefore never seen any of my beloved scarlet cars claim the crown.
My brother and I, with tears running down our cheeks, shared a beverage that my father would not have approved of. We swore to keep it a secret from dad.
To call my family Schumacher obsessed would be an understatement. Every alternate Sunday, with baited breath, we would turn on the television before a grand prix. Nobody would be allowed to move from their allotted positions in the living room, even if it meant suppressing the urge to attend an urgent call from nature.
News of Schumi’s skiing accident left one in a state of shock. He raced wheel-to-wheel at over 300 km/h with the likes of Senna, Villeneuve and Hakkinen, who never gave an inch. And to think an incident on the slopes has left him fighting for his life.
But if there is anyone who has the resilience to pull through, it has to be Michael. Anyone remember Hungary 1998? It is undoubtedly the race that F1 pundit Martin Brundle is referring to in this Tweet.
Come on Michael, give us one of those race stints at pure qualifying pace to win through, like you used to. You can do it.— Martin Brundle (@MBrundleF1) December 29, 2013
My whole family cried with Michael as he burst into tears after equaling Ayrton Senna’s number of race wins, as did the rest of the 200,000 Tifosi (Ferrari fans) present at Monza in 2000.
The moments mentioned in this piece are just the tip of the iceberg of Schumacher memories.
Get well soon legend, you inspired so many with your greatness.