The year was 1996. I picked Michael Schumacher as the guy to support - not because I knew a lot about Formula One or the man himself - but because picking him would mean I could pick someone to pit against my brother’s favorite. I was 9 after all. All I wanted to do was annoy my older brother. Man, did I make a great choice or what.
Its all about winning
Jerez, European GrandPrix, 1997.
Final race of the year, Schumacher was walking away with the victory and the world championship. Unexplainably, he starts slowing a few laps from the end. Villeneuve decides to plunge down the inside to overtake Michael - and presumably win the race and the championship. I distinctly remember that moment. Schumacher purposely turns his car into Villeneuve’s - with the express intent of running him off the road. Yeah, didn’t quite work out, Schumacher runs himself off the road instead, Villeneuve goes on to win the race and the championship. Schumacher is stripped off of all his points for the act - gets nothing - not even second place. Yeah, didn’t matter - winning was all.
Do your best now, worry about the variables and problems later
Silverstone, British GrandPrix, 1998.
It was a classic English summer day, the heavens opened up. It was a torrential down pour. Three laps from the end, Schumacher was barely a second ahead of Mika Hakkinen. The stewards slap him with a stop-go penalty - which would drop him down to 3rd place. He has a 3 lap window to serve the penalty - but only 3 laps remain in the race. Schumacher shuts off his radio, ignores team chatter and starts giving it everything he had. While every other driver was tip-toeing cautiously around the wet track, Schumacher put it on the line - pulled out some blazingly fast laps and pulls into the pits at the end of the final lap to serve his penalty. In doing so though, he crossed the finish line while in the pits. Controversy roared. He knew one thing - do everything possible in the moment and worry about the problems later. Needless to say, he kept the win.
Men can cry, publicly, it is okay.
Monza, Italian GrandPrix, 2000.
If there ever was a Mecca for Ferrari fans, this was it. Schumacher had won his 41st Grand Prix. He cried during the press conference. A lot. He had just equalled the Late Ayrton Senna’s record of 41 career race wins - and just broke down, publicly. Crying is human - he taught me that there is nothing unmanly about crying.
Money and fame bring you a dazzling public life, but keep your private life private
Even though he has been married to his wife since 1995, Korina barely made public appearances in the Formula One circus. It isn’t uncommon for spouses and significant others to be track side supporting their loved ones, but Schumacher insisted that his personal life remain private. He went out of this way to keep it that way. The richest man [ok, debatably] in sporting history, the most successful Forumla One driver, the idol of millions - is still married to the same woman 19 years later, which in today’s world for someone of his stature is a miracle?
Celebrate people’s lives, not mourn.
Imola, San Marino GrandPrix, 2003.
Schumacher had just flown back to the track, after losing his mother the previous night. He insisted on racing. He wanted to win, for his mother. He firmly felt that the only way to make his mother proud and honor her life, was by racing the day after her death - and making her proud. And he did win. What a fitting tribute to his mother’s life.
Gratitude and Fulfillment. You are never done!
Italian GrandPrix, 2006.
Schumacher announces his retirement. A sad day the world over. He had after all done everything. He held every single record. Most wins, most championships among the long list of other records. He had nothing more to prove. Three years later, in 2009, he wasn’t sure if he was done. Schumacher made a comeback in 2010. At 41, he was decades older than the reigning champion - it did not matter. It was a disastrous return, he never really made it back to top form and finally retired in 2012, again. He threw pride out the window. He felt that we owed a lot to Ross Brawn, the brains behind his successful years. Ross had recently started his own team and Schumacher felt it was fitting to drive for him, one last time. This time around, he knew he was done for sure. And made his quiet exit out of the sport as a driver.
It is easy to hate someone with the above qualities, until you read between the lines. He is a legend. Do whatever it takes: People will hate you for this. You will make a lot of enemies along the way. But remember, winning is all, second place is never good enough.
In the wake of his recent accident on the ski slopes and the media’s speculation about his recovery, all I can say is, he is a fighter - he knows how to win - he is going to do everything it takes - he is Michael Schumacher.