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The Many Faces of Michael Schumacher

Posted by Carrot on March 8, 2010 | No Comments

An Englishman accusing Michael Schumacher of being two-faced? Quick, hold the front page! It’s not what you think, so calm down. We have the most successful driver in F1 history returning to the grid this weekend after three years away, the question is which of the facets of Schumacher will we see dominant on his return. I suspect we’ll see one of three.

1. The Red Baron

Schumacher’s nickname while he was with the Scuderia. The man who changed the way we looked at the sport. Ruthless, uncompromising to the point of outright breaking the sporting regulations and unapologetic for all of this, The Red Baron is the ultimate design for a winning F1 driver.

Instead of chasing teams to drive in the best car on the grid (Senna famously offered to drive a Williams for free before Prost blocked his signing) The Red Baron decided to build his own dream team around him. Selecting Ferrari, whose history in the sport meant they were unlikely to withdraw and having the backing of Fiat, the Baron spent four years steadily working on optimising the team. Bringing in Rory Byrne as designer, Ross Brawn as technical chief and Jean Todt as team principle the Scuderia were able to break the dominance of McLaren, Häkkinen and Newey that had closed the 1990s and begin the new millennium with the first of five world championships, breaking all previous records.

Of course, this dedication to winning had its dark side. Critics have accused Schumacher of cheating to win on more than one occasion. Collisions with Hill and Villeneuve that decided championships, for and against The Red Baron respectively, ‘stalling’ during the last minutes of qualifying in Monaco and his use of team orders for success.

The Red Baron is the most successful driver in the history of the sport, and likely that the sport will ever see. He is also the only driver to have ever been disqualified from an entire championship season. Still, it is this aspect of Michael Schumacher that most F1 fans want to see return this weekend, and most promoters are begging for. It’ll be trouble for Rosberg and any other driver in a championship fight with him if this aspect comes back.

2. The Ambassador

In 1997 Schumacher had an incident with Jacques Villeneuve and the FIA made him do some work on their current safety campaign as part of his punishment, since that time Schumacher’s charitable side has gained a lot of coverage in the press. While you wouldn’t know it from some of his antics at F1 circuits, Schumacher is extremely charitable, using both his vast funds and his influence and status to raise money and awareness for various causes.

He serves as an ambassador for UNESCO, continues to work on various road safety campaigns with organisations such as the FIA and Bacardi (famously promoting the campaign during his appearance on BBC2′s Top Gear in the face of substantial teasing by presenter Jeremy Clarkson) and has paid for the construction of schools and shelters directly out of his own pocket. After the 2004 tsunami in Asia, Schumacher donated some money to the relief effort as most people did, the difference is that Schumacher donated more than some countries.

What does this have to do with his comeback you are wondering, do you remember why he retired? It wasn’t because he was ready, or wanting to retire (the press release was issued while he was still on his in-lap from the race) but because he’d have put Massa out of a seat if he’d stayed. The Red Baron wouldn’t have batted an eyelid at taking a seat to win more, but Schumacher gave up his career so a friend could continue to race at one of the top teams. This kind of behaviour is not what Mercedes wants, they don’t want a nice, caring Schumacher but if his retirement is any indication they might not be getting the same ruthless individual known to the history books.

3. The Old Man

“He’s only 41! How can you call him old?” I hear all of you cry. Yes, he’s 41, but this is a little theory I have. What happens to a lot of successful and powerful men who have devoted themselves to their career at this age? They have a mid-life crisis. Some men buy a Porsche. Some start sleeping with their secretary. Perhaps seven time world champions go for a joyride on the grid of the pinnacle of motor sport….

Is it that hard to believe that the guy who has been skydiving and motorcycle racing to try and recapture the rush he used to experience in his youth while he was supposedly retired might take up a seat just to have one last go at something very few people get to experience? I don’t think so.
Time will tell which of these, or which combination (if any) is accurate. Six days to be precise, in fact just under until racing commences in the 2010 Formula 1 season.

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