Schumi The Way To Go Home
Well maybe it should be me getting my coat after that pun but I’m sticking with it – the fact is that Michael Schumacher will be hanging up his helmet and retiring from Formula One. Déjà vu? Almost but not quite as it’s a very different Schumacher that leaves the sport for a second time. A bit less of an aura of invincibility surrounds the German – he may be human and not half machine after all. However, that might not be all such a bad thing.
Michael Schumacher’s return came with a lot of expectation that the man himself tried to (futilely) downplay. There was a sense of unfinished business, more victories to be had and maybe even the odd record to add to his already jam-packed CV. To top it all, this time he was back with the new Mercedes team. A name with it’s own special history and carrying a livery harking back to the Silver Arrows of old.
However, none of that came to pass. Despite having the basis of a World Championship-winning team to start from, Brawn GP did to transform magically into Mercedes GP. It wasn’t entirely surprising as Brawn was not the dominant force it had been by the end of the year. Instead it was Red Bull who were showing the way forward and it was back to the drawing board for Mercedes.
Therefore it was almost two and half seasons before the old master clinched his first podium having been largely outshone on the track, if not off it, by team mate Nico Rosberg. There was a special pole position at Monaco this year, or at least there should have been. Instead, he had to line-up sixth after being penalised for driving into the back of Bruno Senna in the previous race. And that wasn’t the first time he was to make that mistake in 2012.
Still, only the man himself knows what he expected from his return although it’s hard to imagine he was only along for a run around on a Sunday afternoon. The fact that Rosberg did achieve a victory for the team will surely sting.
And yet, despite the minor damage to his racing record, the seven-times World Champion probably leaves with more fans. Away from the glare of the front of the grid, this was a more relaxed and likeable Schumacher. The elder statesman of a sport becoming more and more preoccupied with young upstarts barely out of their karts. With Schumacher’s leaving, Formula One’s grid loses its last link with the days of Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.
However, you have to pity Schumacher for the timing of his announcement – it comes on the back of probably the most embarrassing fortnight of his career. It started with him driving into the back of a driver again, Jean-Éric Vergne the victim this time. With the sport currently obsessed with the driving standards of some of its youngest entrants, the old guard was hardly setting a good example. The result is that he takes a ten-place grid penalty for this weekend’s race.
In the middle, though, was the announcement that Lewis Hamilton would be driving for Mercedes in 2013. In truth, if Schumacher had really wanted to have carried on for another season, he wouldn’t have lingered over adding his signature to a new contract for so long. Still, Ross Brawn may insist that Schumacher is happy with his retirement decision but that decision had already effectively been made by Mercedes. The last time Schumacher retired there was a feeling he’d been pushed, this time around there is no doubt.
Ironically, despite the mistakes, there were signs that Schumacher was finally coming to grips with Formula One after his sabbatical. Out-qualifying Rosberg more often than not, particularly in more recent races, has preceded Schumacher putting in the better races – when reliability has allowed. Certainly, Schumacher has had little luck when it’s come to his share of Mercedes’ mechanical troubles and the 50 points deficit does not reflect the reality.
Goodbye, Schumacher. I hope you enjoyed your second career as much as I did.
Credit: Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team