There’s always one. That kid at school – good at ALL sports – throws discus like a greek god, whilst simultaneously high jumping like Micheal Jordan and Javier Sotomayer’s love child. Your mate who can seemingly pick up ANY musical instrument and instantaneously play it like a rock god. Or your sister who just gained a million Instagram followers in 6 minutes and you’re still at 40 after four years. Winners. Life’s annoying winners.
When it comes to F1 championships, Micheal Shumacher is THAT guy. Like Celine Dion’s number one hit from the movie Titanic, or Bruce Willis in Die Hard, or the relentlessly terrifying baddie cop in Terminator 2… Micheal Shumacher just wouldn’t go away. He just kept winning. Dominating the podium, race after race. Winning five consecutive drivers’ titles; he dominated the field in epic style. He then went on to make world history by smashing two more. In 2002, with a rapturous display of domination, he won the title with a record six races still to go. He stood proud on the podium for every single race.
Having reached true legendary status, the Ferrari F2002 he drove to glory will this year be auctioned off, with a percentage of proceeds going to the ‘Keep Fighting Foundation’, founded by Michael Schumacher’s family. The auction will take place at the Etihad airways Grand Prix, in Abu Dhabi, on the evening of Saturday’s race. Not your average auction – obviously – this dazzling display of F1 finery will take place from the first floor of the glittering Formula 1 Paddock Club. Sotherby’s, who are hosting the auction, wrote: “The 2002 Ferrari F2002, chassis no. 219, was a pivotal piece of machinery in the 2002 Formula 1® season, which quickly became a race for second place as the legendary Michael Schumacher finished 1st or 2nd in every race.”
The thing about life’s winners is that they didn’t just become good by chance. Behind the scenes, they have worked tirelessly hard for years and years. Fanatical in their quest for success and perfection, they are driven, focused and incessantly passionate. Described as “a caring and lovable human” – he was, according to race engineer Pat Symonds, a very different person once he stepped into the car. Symonds said that his F1 persona regularly “tested the limits of what was possible with his driving style”.
Peppered with controversy, his career was as argument-inducing as it was sublime. His quest for the crown seemed to know no bounds. Twice, he was involved in collisions at the end of a race; once with the legendary Damon Hill in Adelaide in 1994 while they were both dueling for their first F1 championship. After clipping the barrier and sustaining damage it seemed that Hill had nailed the championship. Questions arose when Shumacher – instead of crashing out – continued to limp around the track, and when Hill came to overtake in his blaze of glory – Schumacher took him out – leaving them both ousted on the 36th lap. This left the title to the German, but in the most anticlimactic and questionable of fashions. The other famous collision was with supremo Jacques Villeneuve, racing for Williams in Jerez in 1997. Interestingly, this would be the last time Villeneuve would win a race at championship level.
Out of the fast lane and off of the F1 naughty step, Shumacher has always displayed a deeply humanitarian side. As his race engineer also said “Michael is certainly a lovable guy, he’s a caring person, he would never knowingly do anything to hurt anyone.” On top of retaining title as the baddest badass in F1 – the super talented German is ambassador for UNESCO. In April 2002 he was appointed UNESCO Champion for sport in celebration of his contributions to UNESCO’S educational action in favour of young people, and also as a salute to his role in the unabated promotion of sport. Among other things he also opened a clinic for child victims of the Balkan war – providing psychological support, as well as artificial limbs for amputees.
A huge believer in the power of the team, and always looking for inspiration through his fellow drivers – Shumacher’s biggest influence was rival Mika Hakkinen. Known fondly as the ‘flying Finn’, Hakkinen was not only his most enjoyable adversary, but also a stable and solid personal friend. The two legends enjoyed many an epic battle, all of which have gone down in the history books of F1. True sportsman through and through – there was no sweary, surly and tantrumy childishness of today’s sports stars and celebrities – just a beautiful respect for the art of the race. Ranked as one of Formula One’s greatest drivers – Hakkinen held the title for two years, in 1998-1999.
Today it is Lewis Hamilton who is lauded best driver of his generation. The five time world champion has even been touted as possibly one of the greatest drivers in the entire history of the sport. Quite a lot to live up to…but the handsome champion shows no signs of slowing down. Winning his first championship title in 2008 with McLaren, he then moved to Mercedes. Here he proceeded to slay his way through two back to back titles in 2014 and 2015, and then again in 2017 and 2018. As the most the most dazzlingly successful British driver in F1 history, Hamilton is now succeeding powerhouse Shumacher with more race victories (81) and more World Champion titles (5) than ANY other British Formula One driver. He also destroys previous records with the most career points (3,268), and the most grand slams in a season (3), the most wins of different circuits (26), AND the most pole positions OF ALL TIME(87).
But even in the face of his long standing F1 records – once seemingly insurmountable – being smashed season by season…Shumacher is still hailed as ‘the benchmark’. His glittering reign – controversial, impressive and entertaining in equal measure – will be forever immortalized in the history books of Formula One.
“You win a race, the next race it’s a question mark. Are you still the best or not? That’s what is funny. But that’s what is interesting. And that’s what is challenging. You have to prove yourself every time.”