In my opinion, Michael Schumacher is/was the greatest F1 driver of them all. No doubt about it. Seven world titles and 91 race victories don’t tell the whole story, statistics rarely do. Was Schumacher a cheat? Yes and no. Schumacher was certainly a determined and hard driver. He rammed into Damon Hill to win his first F1 title in 1994. And repeated his ramming tactic on Jacques Villeneuve in 1997. Michael Schumacher turned 50 this year, as he continues to recover from a serious head trauma sentiment is running high.
The same press outlets that were anti-Schumacher, back in the day, are now pro-Schumacher. It could be due to the fact that Schumacher has not been seen since suffering a life-altering skiing accident in 2014.
The trend among the media now is to elevate Schumacher to greatness in written and verbal form. But the evidence was already there, it was there from the beginning. And it began with Jordan.
Schumacher was shoe-horned into the Jordan F1 team at the 1991 Belgium Grand Prix. The stand-in driver set a blistering qualifying lap in an unfancied car.
He retired from the race, but in that short time made his name. People took notice.
Schumacher was immediately poached by the then Benetton F1 team. Today it exists as Renault F1.
He exhibited blistering pace throughout his time in F1. His commitment and teamwork were at a level not seen before. And on track, he went beyond those limits.
Going beyond the limits lap after lap was normal for Schumacher. Few can maintain the concentration and skill required over half a race let alone a full race.
Despite cheating his way to winning his first F1 title Schumacher’s time at Ferrari would cement his status as the best ever.
When he joined Ferrari the Scuderia were directionless. A new team was built around him. However, the 1996 spec Ferrari was a dog to drive and unreliable.
Yet he managed to win 3 races and score multiple podiums in his first season at Ferrari. But it would be 3 seasons before Ferrari delivered a competitive and reliable machine.
And the rest is history. Michael Schumacher undoubtedly re-energized Ferrari to a level that it has failed to match since the German left the team in 2006.
Schumacher often out drove the machinery presented before him. In a competitive machine, he was unbeatable.
Kimi Raikkonen was the last driver to win a Championship for Ferrari in 2007. And one can argue Raikkonen was a beneficiary of Schumacher’s legacy.
Schumacher often displayed a win at all cost mentality. While such an outlook tainted his reputation during the moment, they were less than the number of wins he accumulated.
Blistering natural pace, the talent, the speed, ruthlessness, a machine like commitment to winning. These are the Schumacher traits few have managed to emulate.
It’s easy to over-sentimentalize Schumacher especially so right now. He had his flaws but they were outweighed by his ability to extract everything from himself, his car and his team.