Michael Schumacher 2010December 19, 2009
Michael Schumacher retired from Formula 1 at the end of the 2006 season.
Suddenly, from every corner of the news, there is unabated fever among the inhabitants of F1 about the imminent return of the most successful F1 driver ever to grace the sport and live to tell the tale.
I personally believe he will come back and am writing this in due course.
I had seen him race so many times. I grew up in the shadow of the “Senna passes the dominance torch to Schumacher” era and what an amazing 15 years it had been. You may know I grew up in Australia, so I was no stranger to Schumacher or Hakkinen or Hill or anyone from the crop of the mid 80’s to now. You feel as if you know them all somehow and yet, have never met any of them.
As fate would have it then, some 15 years and a move to Japan later, at Suzuka in 2006, I got some pit access and managed to meet most of the field and memorably have a little quiet time with Schumacher, a single race before he retired ( as far as I or anybody else knew at the time ) for ever.
I was wearing sky blue Renault gear, head to toe because I really admired Alonso back then; before the cheating and the blackmail, before the petty bickering and tantrum throwing – back to the days when he was wild, untamed, ragged and massively quick and I among many figured him to be the natural successor to Schumacher – a natural heir.
When Michael and I spoke there was no-one around and after I introduced myself I said, ” You probably don’t like the colors I’m wearing right now…” ( I know – I still slap myself at the stupidity of such a comment but I was awestruck and couldn’t help notice the difference in attire… )
Hence the memorable, “Adam, you talk too much!”
I was embarrassed but he smoothed it out, ” So, you want an autograph?”
RO: ” Umm, actually, just a couple of minutes to chat, if that’s alright.”
MS: “I’ve got a little time but there’s a press conference I have to go to.”
RO: ” I see. You know, I have watched you since Spa all those years ago. I was there in Adelaide when you won the 94 WDC. I’ve always admired you and it’ll be sad to see you go. What are you going to do?”
MS: ” Well, you need to know when your time is up. I have other priorities that need taking care of so the sport has to move on.”
( This is poignant because I feel like he has sorted out these priorities. This is the reason why he is set to return, not in red but in silver clothes next year, 4 years after his retirement from the sport. A fresh slate with the reigning world champions mated to Mercedes ( the manufacturer who brought him into the spotlight ) and a fellow German hotshoe team mate in Rosberg would fit perfectly as a swansong. )
RO: “Well, I don’t know your motives but do you mind if I have a couple of photos with you?”
MS: “Of course not.”
So I swivel the Nikon S4 compact to face the both of us and I’m literally arm in arm with the greatest modern driver to have ever lived. It is still an extremely special moment for me and one I will never forget. I still cringe at the facial hair though…
MS: “That’s a very interesting camera.”
RO: “Thanks, it’s really useful especially in situations like this.”
MS: “I like the way it swivels. It has a wide angle lens and that must help.”
( He was wrong about the lens but I said nothing about it. )
With that he said his farewell and headed up the hill to the press conference room. I found myself wandering in the same direction and then stopped.
I stood there stunned and reflective and yes, that exchange most definitely did take place. I remember it vividly.
I have always respected MS not because of what he stood for in regards to the sport through Ferrari but also because he brought Ferrari to a point where they became unbeatable and that, by anyone elses standards deserves the respect it garners.
For me personally, I had managed to meet one of the men I would most like to have met in my life, and that, literally less than 2 weeks before the end of his career. Merely one race before it actually ended because Brazil was still to come.
I had achieved what a lifetime of people in this world hope to achieve and I am grateful.
( You can see the media scrum around MS in the background )