Schumacher calls time on epic career
Michael guns for another title but will quit at season’s end
Michael Schumacher, statistically by far the most successful grand prix driver in history, has announced his retirement as of the end of this season. His 15-year F1 career will be remembered as much for its controversy as its astonishing heights.
All those world championships and grand prix victories will forever have a but associated with them His apparent inability to draw the line between hard play and foul, as seen in his title-deciding clashes with Damon Hill at Adelaide in 1994 and Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez ’97, was with him to the end. As recently as Monaco this year he created an outcry by deliberately parking his Ferrari at Rascasse at the end of the session, preventing anyone from beating his provisional pole time. His first title with Benetton in ’94 was further clouded by the discovery of his car’s banned launch and traction control features.
For all but one year of his career he has had the immense talents of technical director Ross Brawn and designer Rory Byrne around him. This three-man group grew symbiotically, but at its nucleus was the driving talent of Schumacher. It could make otherwise unfeasible race strategies work, could tease victories from a car not quite the best. And when allied to the best car it made for total annihilation.
Although some might say the towering statistics of Schumacher’s career are flattered by the quality of the machinery he’s driven, it’s his combination of talent, white-hot competitive intensity and relentless work rate that has brought such machinery to him.
But amid the statistics, history will probably recall him foremost as the driver who finally brought world championship status back to Ferrari after a barren patch longer than any other in Its history. When he joined in 1996 he found a technical desert behind the glittering facade. In 2000 he became the first Ferrari-driving world champion since Jody Scheckter in 1979.