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Never forget how great Michael Schumacher was

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Andrew Benson | 12:43 UK time, Thursday, 4 October 2012

Michael Schumacher was given a round of applause by the assembled media after he finished the prepared statement with which he announced his second retirement from Formula 1 at the Japanese Grand Prix on Thursday.

It was a mark of the respect still held for Schumacher and a reflection of the appreciation for what was clearly an emotional moment for the man whose seven world titles re-wrote the sport's history books.

Schumacher stumbled a couple of times as he read off the paper in front of him and once, as he mentioned the support of his wife Corinna, his voice almost cracked.

Once through the statement and on to a question-and-answer session with the journalists, he was more comfortable, relaxed in a way he has so often been since his comeback, and so rarely was in the first stint of his career.

Michael Schumacher after the crash with Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore

Schumacher's retirement from the Singapore Grand Prix had a familiar look to it. Photo: Getty

The Schumacher who returned to Formula 1 in 2010 with Mercedes was quite different from the one who finished his first career with Ferrari in 2006.

The new Schumacher was more human, more open and more likeable.

As he put it himself on Thursday: "In the past six years I have learned a lot about myself, for example that you can open yourself without losing focus, that losing can be both more difficult and more instructive than winning. Sometimes I lost this out of sight in the earlier years."

Most importantly, though, the new Schumacher was nowhere near as good.

In every way possible, there is no other way to view his return to F1 than as a failure.

When he announced his comeback back in December 2009, he talked about winning the world title. Instead, he has scored one podium in three years, and in that period as a whole he has been trounced by team-mate Nico Rosberg in terms of raw pace. In their 52 races together, Schumacher has out-qualified his younger compatriot only 15 times.

It is ironic, then, that there have been marked signs of improvement from Schumacher this season. In 14 races so far, he has actually out-qualified Rosberg eight-six.

And although Rosberg has taken the team's only win - in China earlier this year, when he was demonstrably superior all weekend - arguably Schumacher has been the better Mercedes driver this year.

Schumacher has suffered by far the worst of the team's frankly unacceptable reliability record and would almost certainly have been ahead of Rosberg in the championship had that not been the case. And he might even have won in Monaco had not a five-place grid penalty demoted him from pole position.

That penalty, though, was given to Schumacher for an accident he caused at the previous race in Spain, when he rammed into the back of Williams driver Bruno Senna having misjudged his rival's actions.

That was only one of four similar incidents in the last 18 months that have crystallised the impression that the time was approaching where Schumacher should call it a day.

It is unfortunate timing, to say the least, that the last of those incidents happened less than two weeks ago in Singapore, almost as if it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

That was not the case, of course. Schumacher has been vacillating on his future for months and in the end his hand was forced. Mercedes signed Lewis Hamilton and Schumacher was left with the decision of trying to get a drive with a lesser team or quitting. He made the right call.

His struggles since his return have had an unfortunate effect on Schumacher's legacy. People within F1 - people with the highest regard for his achievements - have begun to question what went before.

There have always been question marks over his first title with Benetton in 1994, given the highly controversial nature of that year. Illegal driver aids were found in the car, but Benetton were not punished because governing body the FIA said they could find no proof they had been used.

But since 2010 people have begun to look back at the dominant Ferrari era of the early 2000s, when Schumacher won five titles in a row, and begun to wonder aloud just how much of an advantage he had.

It was the richest team, they had unlimited testing and bespoke tyres. Did this, people have said, mean Schumacher was not as good as he had looked?

If you watched him during his first career, though, you know how ridiculous an assertion this is. Schumacher in his pomp was undoubtedly one of the very greatest racing drivers there has ever been, a man who was routinely, on every lap, able to dance on a limit accessible to almost no-one else.

Sure, the competition in his heyday was not as deep as it is now, but Schumacher performed miracles with a racing car that stands comparison with the greatest drives of any era.

Victories such as his wet-weather domination of Spain in 1996, his incredible fightback in Hungary in 1998, his on-the-limit battle with Mika Hakkinen at Suzuka that clinched his first title in 2000 were tours de force. And there were many more among that astonishing total of 91 victories.

So too, as has been well documented, was there a dark side to Schumacher, and it was never far away through his first career.

Most notoriously, he won his first world title after driving Damon Hill off the road. He failed to pull off a similar stunt in 1997 with Jacques Villeneuve. And perhaps most pernicious of all, he deliberately parked his car in Monaco qualifying in 2006 to stop Fernando Alonso taking pole position from him.

Those were just the most extreme examples of a modus operandi in which Schumacher seemed often to act without morals, a man who was prepared to do literally anything to win, the sporting personification of Machiavelli's prince, for whom the ends justified the means.

Those acts continue to haunt Schumacher today, and even now he still refuses to discuss them, won't entertain the prospect of saying sorry.

"We are all humans and we all make mistakes," he said at Suzuka on Thursday. "And with hindsight you would probably do it differently if you had a second opportunity, but that's life."

He was given a second opportunity at F1, and he took it because in three years he had found nothing to replace it in his life.

His self-belief persuaded him that he could come back as good as he had been when he went away, but he learnt that time stands still for no man.

He has finally been washed aside by the tide of youth that with the arrival of Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen towards the end of his first career already seemed to be replacing one generation with the next.

It seems appropriate in many ways that the agent for that was Hamilton, the man who many regard as the fastest driver of his generation.

That, after all, is what Schumacher was, as well as one of the very greatest there has ever been. And nothing that has happened in the last three years can take that away.


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  • Comment number 1.

    The right decision.

  • Comment number 2.

    If we're not supposed to remember Schumacher for this three year comeback, then why did he come back at all?

    Like it or not it's part of his legacy, equally as much as his prime years. Knowing when to quit is part of a great sportsman; Schumacher didn't.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm sure if he had Massa's or Webber's car he would be beating them. Probably Jenson too. I really can see how Rosberg 'trounced him', Alonso trounced Massa in a whole different way!

  • Comment number 4.

    Quite a neat little obituary to his career, fair as far as Im concerned, Wish the man well, Im sure he will be competative in whatever he moves on to, in my eyes a particular genius with a ferrari in spain '96, superlative drive, One tiny little comment, I know that it snot, but secretly, how many people would be evry ammused if he was rolling a cigarrette behind his helmet in the picture above? :D

  • Comment number 5.

    It was the right decision. While Schumacher should look upon his achievement of still driving in the most competitive arena of motorsport at the age of 43, and being able to beat many of the other drivers out there, he has taken the correct route to bring his career to an end. He will never get back to what he was even in the most competitive car and if he was to continue, he would never have won an eight world title. He is a legend of our sport and no doubt one of the greatest drivers of all time. We should remember him for that and while his comeback wasn't as successful as he hoped, it was good to see Schumacher in an F1 car again. Lets enjoy his final 6 races.

  • Comment number 6.

    On the one hand, "That, after all, is what Schumacher was, as well as one of the very greatest there has ever been. And nothing that has happened in the last three years can take that away" is the perfect closing sentiment to the man that was F1 for me for so many years.

    On the other the sporting personification of Machiavelli's prince" is probably the biggest joke I have ever seen on the BBC. Maybe reading Machiavelli's prince might just enlighten why that's the most nonsense thing every written. Hobbes' Leviathan might actually work for what you were going for, but not the price.

  • Comment number 7.

    its a shame to see him go after all these years i hope he can end this year on a high with another drive like he did at brazil in 2006 that was just amazing, im just glad i was around to watch him race.

    hes not just a F1 Great hes a F1 Legend and his legacy will be around for time to come not only in the sport but his pushes for imrpovements in road saftey and his charity work are just some other things he does as well. A remarkable bloke

  • Comment number 8.

    IM AGAST!,

    thats almost a complementary piece of journalism regarding Michael Schumacher, a 1st for you Andrew. lol

  • Comment number 9.

    I missed the "H" in AGHAST.

  • Comment number 10.

    I first came across Schumacher at Le Mans in 1991 when he was a young hot shoe driving for Sauber Mecedes Sports. He jumped in the car that Wendlinger had been driving and was visibly quicker. Being a fully paid up anorak in those days, I stuck a stop watch on him and noted that even though it was dark and had started raining, he was 5 second per lap quicker than the established star. Sure he had issues and probably wasn't a very nice person back then (but my current favorite F1 driver sacked his own Dad for heavens sake)........But he was super super quick and that's all I ask of my racing drivers. I know nowadays that the ability to look after tyres and manage the systems seems to be a bit of a mantra, I'm still in favour of a "balls out" racer who can drive the pants off of his car.

  • Comment number 11.

    Without question one of the best three drivers of all time. You could make a good case for him being the greatest ever.

    I'm very fortunate to have seen many of the greats race - Prost, Senna and of course Schumacher.

  • Comment number 12.

    I hope he continues to bring his passion for f1 in the paddock somewhere. Either in a team advisor or eventually becoming a team principal something along those lines. A good bloke out of the car even if he wasn't always a good bloke in one ;) that's actually what I like about him, don't like the nicey nicey approach

  • Comment number 13.

    @ 2 umpteenth_time_user save 606

    If some one offered you the chance to come back and drive for a F1 team again, would you say no?

    I bloody hell wouldn’t

  • Comment number 14.

    Wow, you really don't like Schumacher do you Benson. I'm sure most people wouldn't describe the situation between Nico and him as a trouncing

  • Comment number 15.

    As many have said before its a shame to see hime retire (again) he truely is one of the greatest F1 drivers in the history of the sport.

    The records speak for themselves & I honestly can never see them been beaten, if you look at some of the lap records for tracks this season he is often the person who still holds them!

    You will always have people bring up the 'questionable' thing he did over both this times in F1 but was he any different from Senna or Prost? True racers will do EVERYTHING they can to win or gain an advantage no matter what people might think of them.

    The only regrets he should have about returning was Mercedes did not give him (or Nico in that fact) a car cappable of competing with McLaren/Ferrari & Red Bull. If the car had been more reliable this year then he would have been alot higher in the WDC standing & maybe they wouldnt have gone sniffing around Hamilton.

    All in all Schumacher WAS formula one for so many years & I think he could have carried on in 2007 & would have stood a rather good chance of winning an 8th title, we shall never know.

    Thank you Michael for keeping me & many others entertained since you started in 1991 & im gutted i never got to see you race in perseon.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Don't understand why people say his comeback has changed his legacy. Surely from 1994 - 2004 he proved he was the greatest modern driver, especially in the early years at Ferrari where he consistently challenged for the title in a sub-par car. And if he enjoys it and a team was willing to employ him then there is absolutely no reason why he should not have come back with Mercedes.

  • Comment number 18.

    Hopefully this is the last blog from Benson on Schumi. What will this "expert" write about now that will generate the amount of reader comments that Schumacher-related blogs do? And talk about an article full of back-handed compliments. Let's see what Hamilton does with Mercedes and against Rosberg next year. We may be looking back quite differently and more favourably on Schumi's 2nd career this time next year...

  • Comment number 19.

    Some might have a pop at Schumi's antics over the years, but he was no less determined and pulled similar strokes as Ayrton did.

    I'm glad to see him bow out gracefully, he has made a few silly errors that show he has been overtaken in driving talent and nous. I'm relieved that he walks away from Formula One with his health intact. I have seen too many leave via the exit door to the Grim Reaper or with awful injuries.

    Next stop DTM for Micheal?

  • Comment number 20.

    It's been Mercedes who have tainted his legacy, by giving him such a mediocre car, if he had been in a Red Bull then he would of certainly enhanced his reputation. Look at Kovalinen, back of the grid every week, wouldn't get into anyone's top 10 driver's list at the moment even though he is better than some of the guys who are in the top cars. It's all about the machinery, which is why Schumacher's period from 2010 to 2012 should not be looked at as a failure from him, but from Mercedes instead

  • Comment number 21.

    hopefully he does continue on at Mercedes as he would be a great asset for a team who want to challenge for titles in the coming years with Hamilton as he knows how to win Championships

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree, Schumacher should be remembered for the period of his WCs - 1994-2004. Seven titles is astonishing.

    But... he was also banned once for ignoring a black flag, an act of arrogance that could have endangered other drivers. He was docked points and warned - a lenient punishment - for deliberately ramming Villeneuve at the end of 1997, a year after being accused of doing the same to Hill. And misdemeanors aside, it's hard to consider a man "the greatest" when throughout his first career he insisted on being team number 1, so the likes of Irvine and Barichello had to yield wins to him under sometimes farcical circumstances.

    Anyone who wishes to be considered the best of all time, should not need team rules to protect him from his own team-mate.

  • Comment number 23.

    Michael Schumacher is the greatest driver of his generation, and probably would be the greatest driver of any generation given the right tools to do so. I am saddened and annoyed with Mercedes for failing to provide a Championship winning car, as probably this was sold to Michael in the early development stage of his comeback. The Legend won seven World titles, think about it for a moment, domination not seen by any driver previously. enough said.... How many for Lewis Hamilton?, what an idiot leaving Mclaren.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nice piece Andrew (although I'm sure you will take stick from both sides).

    He was flawed most definitely but 7 world titles do not lie. The problem with MS, perhaps more than any driver, is it is difficult to seperate the perception of the man from the driver.

    For me, even though not a fan, he has to stand as one of the best on his reord alone.

  • Comment number 25.

    @22 does that mean Alonso is not a great driver then?

    He was No1 driver at Renault, he tried to be at McLaren but Hamilton put pay to that & there is no question whatsoever that he is No1 at Ferrari!

    I won't even go into the classic "Fillipe, Alonso is faster than you" debarcle!

  • Comment number 26.

    Fully agree with bengate. Schumi surely had a dark side and it tainted some of his momentous achievements IMO. Definitely one of the greatest. I do agree Benson when he says this 2nd spell raises questions about Schumacher's 1st career. He was surely a master at bringing a team together and ensuring everything is working for him so that he could unleash his considerable talent to do what he does best - Win!

  • Comment number 27.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 28.

    Simple fact is... if MSC had had a half decent car he would be winning races, or even the WDC. His status and ranking as one of the all time motor racing greats cannot questioned or diluted.

    Benson you continue to astound... with your biased views. How do you know that 'He made the right decision'. Isn't journalism supposed to be factually accurate and un-opinionated.

  • Comment number 29.

    @18 spudman_2000

    I agree that the general tone of the blog is rather disrespectful.

    Schumacher was undoubtedly flawed and should have been disqualified from the '94 championship as he was in '97.

    Nevertheless he was undoubtedly the best driver of his generation and demonstrated that in '95 and then repeatedly from 2000-2004. Yes he had the best team and best equipment but he was an integral part of creating and building that.

    Prost and Senna had by far the best cars in the late 80s - do people criticise them for this? No because it would be stupid. They were the head and shoulders ahead of the field with only each other as competition. For most of the early 00s Schumacher did not have a serious rival but that is hardly his fault.

  • Comment number 30.

    @2 You mean like Muhammad Ali knew when to quit?

  • Comment number 31.

    It's a shame that he had to drive other people off the track to win races and that he could never ever admit he was in the wrong.

  • Comment number 32.

    The most accomplished and successful driver yet, and very probably the most accomplished and successful one Formula One will ever have. There's a difference between accomplishment and greatness, though, and someone who brought the sport into that much disrepute would never be great even with twice as many wins.

  • Comment number 33.

    He came back because he can, and anyone would because they can't appreciate the addiction. Nothing in your life would seem exciting after you've driven a Formula One car. This is another bitchy/swipey blog, but at least it finishes on a decent sentence.

    I just want to know who your villain is going to be next year.

  • Comment number 34.

    "Driving Damon Hill off the road"?

    When will the cheap gutter sports writers of the British press let this go??? It's nearly 20 years for goodness sake and it has NEVER been proved one way or the other what happened. Damon Hill seems to be over it, why aren't you?

  • Comment number 35.

    Clearly Schumacher has not been as good in his second career as he was in his first, but he is in his early 40s and has still shown good competitiveness and flashes of brilliance (pole lap in Monaco, keeping Hamilton at bay at Monza, etc...). The two main problems of his return have been dealing with the tyres and, until this season at least, qualifying. I agree with 'Mark1980' (no.3) that he would be outperforming Webber, Massa and Button if given their cars. Those that cast aspersions on his greatness are clearly deranged. You don't win seven world titles by accident and he only actually had a completely dominant car in one of his Ferrari successes. Most people would agree that Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso are the best three drivers in the next generation, but are we to discount Vettel's second title due to having a dominant car or any Alonso championship wins for Ferrari due to him being their undisputed number one? Michael Schumacher is, in my opinion, the greatest driver of all time. People don't like him because of his misdemeanours, but they shouldn't let that cloud their judgement of his undoubted abilities. F1 will be much the worse without him, so hopefully he can grab an unlikely victory (perhaps demonstrating his mastery of wet conditions) between now and the end of the season to round off his career in the style it deserves.

  • Comment number 36.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 37.

    As many have said Damon Hill is over 1994. I'm disappointed Hill isn't going to be in Suzuka to show the BBC how it's done on Sky. Unbiased and he is the man that Schumacher went into. If he can get over it why can't the BBC and the British press? Andrew Benson is a fool. Maybe it's time he retired too

  • Comment number 38.

    He has already had 7 champions. He came back just because he enjoys the F1 and he still can. It's his right to decide when to quit. Though he never won a title in last 3 years, he is the greatest player in F1.

  • Comment number 39.

    Is there any chance Jake Humphrey can take Benson to BT with him?

  • Comment number 40.

    anyone that argues that schumachers 3 year return has ruined his reputation... do you say the same about muhammed ali? nigel mansell? many sportsman carry on past their prime. schumacher may have talked about winning the title, but he came back first and foremost for the love of f1. and why not? the greatest driver in my opinion, and came back to help the team that gave him a leg-up in his career. utmost respect

  • Comment number 41.

    It's a shame he's retired but everyone has to call it a day sometime. I doubt many have questioned what he achieved before unless they never watched him race. Schumacher took uncompetitive cars at Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari and put them in places where they shouldn't have been. Alonso is the only current driver capable of that now.

    You can only beat what's put in front of you and for 5 years Schumacher didn't have anyone capable of getting to his level. If people suggest that maybe Schumacher isn't actually that good then are the current generation actually not a golden generation but instead a field of average drivers on the same level? Both are clearly rubbish suggestions.

    The guy fought with the likes of Senna and Prost for podiums and held his own for that brief period. He produced some stunning drives and you don't win 7 titles by simply having the best car. He still has a claim to being the best ever to me.

  • Comment number 42.

    I don't know what to say! An idol, if an imperfect one, a man who's will to win put him head and shoulders above everyone around him for the bigger part of his 17 seasons in formula one. His second stint has shown a new side to him, the side that had he had in his first life, so to speak, would have made far fewer people so biased against him, and though he's not been the behemoth of legend, I can't help but admire him all the more for this. So I'll finish simply by saying:

    Thanks Michael, for all your work for motor-racing spanning almost my entire lifetime. And good luck with whatever you choose to do now :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Even in first F1 career his reputation was tarnished by the incidents with Hill and Villenevue. Having watched most of his races it was amazing to see how many races he won by superior stategy rather than overtaking his rivals on the track.

    On his return and almost driving Rubens Barrachello into the wall, the talk of him regretting his previous tactics sounds rather hollow.

    A great driver perhaps, but not a great racer.

  • Comment number 44.

    I have to agree with the tone of this piece, a rare thing when itt comes to Benson's writings. The defenders of MSC always conveniently forget or excuse this man's sheer, utter, cold ruthlessness. Now, that sort of attitude might be what you expect from a SAS operative, but not a man taking part in a sport.
    In sports you are supposed to "play the game", be "sportsmanlike" and observe unwritten codes of etiquette. Unfortunately, for many people, this is where the racer obliterates the sportman.
    He performed every trick in the book, whether it was planing down the wooden boards under the cars, or riding opponents into the wall, this man saw the sport in what the team and he could get away with.
    For Schumacher there was no "taking part", only winning.
    His raw talent would have been enough to win at least 4 or 5 world titles, but he won more because the FIA wet themselves when it came to sanctioning him and his teams. The decision to retire came a year too late, and for those saying it was just the tires, clearly it wasn't. Not being given carte blanche by the FIA anymore and without a very good car, he was found wanting. I for one shan't miss him.

  • Comment number 45.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 46.

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  • Comment number 47.

    Michael did not achieve the lofty goals set for his comeback that cannot be denied. But I don't think it was a failure for him as a person. Andrew starts by describing how the new Schumacher was more relaxed and likeable. His previous image was one of a cold, robot who only wanted to win. The more mellow Michael has been willing to show his true persona more often and that has been no bad thing.

    He worked hard, he struggled but he kept going, showing some of the work ethic that made him a 7 time World Champion. He has got better every year and only a true Rosberg fan would deny that this year he has been as good as if not better than Nico. So much so that most thought he was good enough to stick around for longer if he wanted to. He is 43, set the fastest time at Monaco after three years out of motorsport entirely (unlike Kimi, the situations are different) and I think he performed better than he had any right to. Yes he is flawed, but his achievements are impressive and he is rightly applauded.

    I'm glad he seems genuinely at peace with his decision to retire. He is no failure, he is an inspiration to many and one of the worlds greatest ever drivers and that is how he'll be remembered.

    Good luck Michael in whatever you choose to do now, but please don't go back to the bikes!

  • Comment number 48.

    @36 Once again you show your ignorance and terrible personality. Benson gets some things right, and others wrong. He is a journalist writing a blog, not a historian writing the definitive history of F1. The 1994 Hill/Schumacher crash can be called either way. If you really knew about F1 you would know that the '94 incident was not a normal overtake, Schumacher had just gone of the road and hit the wall and knew he was out of the race, hence the suspicion that he turned into Hill deliberately. As others have said, Hill is a gentleman and has let it go. It cannot be proven either way.

    If you cannot post in a civil manner e.g. accusing people of hating someone they probably have a great deal of respect for, maybe you should just go back to shouting at the traffic....

  • Comment number 49.


    I would say that its the other way round some of the greatest sports stars don't know when to quit because they always strive to be the best, even if they are not any more. However trying to work out who is the greatest drivers in f1 is rediculous when cars differ year to year and more importantly team to team. You could have a brilliant driver in a HRT but if you never put him in a good car who would ever know. I would love to see a completely balanced race i reckon a few people would be surprised.

  • Comment number 50.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 51.

    @36 what nonesense. MSC was under pressure from Hill, ran wide onto the grass all on his own opening the door for the quicker Hill who was legitimately passing him and MSC chopped across him taking himself out and fatally damaging Hills car.
    Msc knew full well what he was doing and he got away with it.

  • Comment number 52.

    One of the best? , surely THE best!

  • Comment number 53.

    In many respects, yes it was a mistake coming back, but let us not forget the excitement and intrigue his return has brought to the sport - it has added another interesting aspect to the last few seasons. Plus, it has been good to see him just having fun, much more chilled out than he was first time round!

    The fact is the Mercedes car the last few seasons has been terrible - Schumacher in his prime would have struggled to achieve more than he did in the first two seasons in particular. This idea that somehow any other driver, including Schumacher in his prime, could have somehow beaten the McLaren or Red Bull in the Mercedes car is utter nonsense.

    The idea as well that he is somehow to blame for the car not developing into a world championship team is also ridiculous given the nonsensical continuing restrictions on testing. Hamilton will find this frustrating soon enough when he realises what a terrible car he has stepped into.

    As for anybody who questions his achievements - you only have to look at the fact that if it were not for an unfortunate retirement in the penultimate race and then an incident in the final race of 2006 that he would have beaten the "great" Alonso to take his 8th title. Or even look at his battles with the legendary Mika Hakkinen.

    Yes, Schumacher blatantly cheated to win the 1994 title - but you only need to watch the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix (available on the BBC website), to see Senna do the exact same!!

    Schumacher's greatness came from not just his ruthlessness on the track, but his sheer dedication to testing / developing the car and the fact is, love him or hate him, he changed the sport - to the extent that they had to basically engineer the rules against him to stop him from winning 9-10 titles!

    The greatest racing driver of all time, or at least alongside Senna. To argue otherwise is to be blinded by personal dislike of the man. As we do with Ali, as we did with Mansell, we will in years to come look beyond this comeback and remember him as the living legend that he is.

  • Comment number 54.

    "in his pomp was undoubtedly one of the very greatest racing drivers there has ever been,"

    Straight from Bensons piece above, yep. sure shows his hatred!

    As for your statement on the '94 incident, embarassing. Try watching youtube footage, you can see him turn the wheel to the right to drive in to Damon.

  • Comment number 55.

    "In every way possible, there is no other way to view his return to F1 than as a failure."

    Indeed, a failure:
    - 3 years of racing an F1 car (in the middle or front of the pack)
    - earning millions of £ each year
    - teaming up with Mercedes and becoming part of their legacy
    - beating your younger team-mate on plenty of occasions, both in quali and race
    - fastest lap in Monaco

    Dear writer of this article... I think revisiting the dictionary, for the definition of "failure", would be useful.

  • Comment number 56.

    I have looked again several times today at the incident where he collided with Hill. It was Hill who drove into him, clearly. Hill tried to squeeze through a non-existent "gap", but only managed just about to get his front wheel in front of Schumacher's rear wheel.
    And Schumacher removing Villeneuve from the track? I think he did the whole F1 world a huge favour there and should get a gong for that.

  • Comment number 57.

    @56 What a stupid, stupid thing to say......

  • Comment number 58.

    >"I have to agree with the tone of this piece, a rare thing when itt comes to Benson's writings. The defenders of MSC always conveniently forget or excuse this man's sheer, utter, cold ruthlessness. Now, that sort of attitude might be what you expect from a SAS operative, but not a man taking part in a sport.
    In sports you are supposed to "play the game", be "sportsmanlike" and observe unwritten codes of etiquette. Unfortunately, for many people, this is where the racer obliterates the sportman."

    I agree with your description of his personality, but I'm not sure that it makes him a bad racing driver. Senna had the exact same personality, and he and Schumacher will doubtless be in the top three of the Beeb's all time greatest F1 drivers.

  • Comment number 59.

    @56 ..should go to Specsavers

  • Comment number 60.

    I think that it is pretty certain now that while Schumacher was a very good driver, he wasn't as good as his record appears to indicate.

    Some of the tactics he and his teams used to win were less than sportsmanlike. The legacy that Schumacher gives to formula 1 is the amount of penalties that drivers now get which if they had been around in his early days would have cost him titles.

    Schumacher was the first to win World titles where he wasn't racing regularly against at least one of the greats, as the link to the past champions had been broken when Senna died.

    The cars and tyres that Schumacher had when he won his titles were superior to the other teams plus he wasn't sharing the team with a former or future World Champion.

  • Comment number 61.

    I don't believe that Schumacher has really got much worse. His comeback just showed how important having the best car is in Formula One. Without that he looked pretty average and realistically he certainly was never up to the level that Hamilton and Alonso are at now.

  • Comment number 62.

    >"Some of the tactics he and his teams used to win were less than sportsmanlike. The legacy that Schumacher gives to formula 1 is the amount of penalties that drivers now get which if they had been around in his early days would have cost him titles."

    Again, this is true of many of the great drivers of the past.

    In the 1993 Japanese Grand Prix, Ayrton Senna lapped Eddie Irvine. Irvine then passed Senna to un-lap himself at the next corner. After the race an enraged Senna punched Irvine in the face! (For some reason this story is not nearly as well known as the Scuhmacher-Hill collision)

    If this happened today, the driver in question would (1) be arrested for assault and (2) be banned from F1 for a season. What's the moral of the story? Don't judge drivers from one era by the standards of another.

  • Comment number 63.

    @62 here here. But you are wasting your time trying to get through to some.

  • Comment number 64.

    @62 I remember it well but the difference is that there was not a WDC hanging on that incident and secondly the punch was off track so not sure what the stewards could have done. The MSC incident in 94 directly affected the WDC outcome that year and was again attempted in 97. IMO however, Senna and Prost should both have been harshly dealt with for their purposeful crashes in 89 and 90 that decided the WDC outcome. It would only have reversed the order of their wins in effect but would have served as a lesson to other drivers and later generations like MSc perhaps.

  • Comment number 65.

    Article on what made Schumacher so special by someone who knows what they are talking about. Enjoy

  • Comment number 66.

    The Senna-Irvine incident would not have reduced the number of World Championships that Senna won, the Schumacher-Hill incident would have reduced the number of championships for Schumacher if punished correctly. Senna did a similar thing to Prost but that evened itself out with what Prost had done to Senna the year before.

    You certainly can't judge Schumacher against past eras because he was the first driver to win a World Championship without having to race a full season against one of the greats. The World Champions prior to Schumacher certainly can be judged against past eras.

    If Senna had received a one year ban from racing then it is likely that he would still be alive today and would have given Schumacher a run for his money in 1995 then the link between the greats and the drivers around now would have been maintained.

  • Comment number 67.


    I suggest you read the about page of that blog:

    "my opinions are pretty much of no consequence and importance at all. This is a blog that nobody who wants to receive serious information about F1 should ever read or rely on."

  • Comment number 68.

    @64 f1fan2011

    Too true. In many respects those few years of bitter rivalry between Prost and Senna were the most exciting I have seen roughly in 25 years of watching F1. However, they took the desire to win to a whole new level and were, as you pointed out, basically unpunished for their reckless actions. Looking back now I think I missed some of the subtleties of the guile they used but even at the age of 10 it was clear that they would stop at nothing to beat each other.

  • Comment number 69.

    1) This post is too long for what is worth. We know... the same old ideas. What new content can one invent to write about Schumacher (or other drivers)? It's not like critical new discoveries have been made about them...

    2) To British fans, I am sorry to say, but the Schumacher - Hill incident can also be described as: had Hill not plunged in and waited for both to pass that corner, then it would have been Hill's race / WDC. You keep on judging one of the two, for something that has not been proven. Schumacher was still in front and had the right to hold that corner. Had Hill waited... we would have had a different story.

    3) Senna was "bad" too, as others point out. So, if his death allows us to give him peace, why can't we give peace to a 7 x WDC who's still active? Even if you take away his 1994 WDC, give him the 1999 one, where his accident prevented him from winning. Okay, that sounds naive, but the point is, he was so competitive in his first career, that you can't honestly take his merits away from him.

    4) I support those saying it's hard to say one was the BEST of all times or anything like that. Let's just appreciate each WDC for their specific merits! We are truly blessed with such examples / heroes.

  • Comment number 70.

    @68 totally right. I saw all those races live and both Prost and Senna were both mezmerisingly good so it was a massive shame that they had to devalue themselves in my view by doing that. In the end, luckily, only they suffered but it did deprive us fans of two potentially great races.

  • Comment number 71.

    At 21:45 4th Oct 2012, Bob wrote:

    You certainly can't judge Schumacher against past eras because he was the first driver to win a World Championship without having to race a full season against one of the greats. The World Champions prior to Schumacher certainly can be judged against past eras.

    That statement doesn't make much sense. He beat Mika Hakkinen in 2000 who can definitely be described as a great driver.

  • Comment number 72.

    @61 You have clearly not seen Schumacher's first years at Ferrari, especially 1995. Dreadful car, still managed to pack in a few wins.

    Does the "rain master" title ring a bell? It wasn't given to Hakkinen, nor to Hill or Villeneuve. You certainly can't put that down to Schumacher's team mate, or "superior" tyres. 1996 Barcelona says lots.

  • Comment number 73.


    Try reading the post again. As I said the link between the greats was broken because Senna had died and Schumacher won his championships not racing regularly against the greats where previous champions had beaten greats to win.

    Hakkinen won his championships a long time after the greats had retired so Schumacher beating him is irrelevant. It is impossible to compare World Champions from 1994 onwards with those from 1950 to 1993 due to the death of Senna.

  • Comment number 74.

    >"The Senna-Irvine incident would not have reduced the number of World Championships that Senna won"

    You're moving the goalposts. We were discussing unsporting behavior and how it affected our views of the drivers in question, not the number of WDC's anybody won.

  • Comment number 75.

    @70 f1fan2011

    Indeed it did. The funniest thing about the 1989 race is that Senna actually crossed the finish line first having overtaken Alessandro Nannini in the process. This despite having lost well over a minute due to the crash, having a broken wing and a lengthy pit stop. Here is a question - is Nannini the luckiest driver ever to win just one race?

  • Comment number 76.


    Did you never meet someone incredibly humble? Read the article and then compare it to a typical BBC chief writer article and only then draw your conclusions.

    Somehow I doubt that will happen...

  • Comment number 77.

    @73 Bob

    Ah I must have misunderstood the point you were trying to make - I see what you are saying.

    In my opinion had he lived Senna would have gone on to win at least 2 if not 3 more championships - especially when you consider who did win in '96 and '97 in the Williams.

    I guess Schumacher was fortunate to compete when he did - if he had been born 10 years earlier he would probably have won far fewer championships. But as he wasn't it is immaterial.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    mr-big. I stopped reading the article that you provided a link for as I lost count of the mistakes. I also stopped reading the article on this page as I lost count of the mistakes.

    Twirlip. I was discussing unsporting behaviour on the track and how that affected the number of World Championships that Schumacher won. I could discuss off track behaviour if you want but every time I do it here, my posts get blocked despite being factually accurate.

  • Comment number 80.

    "The man's sheer cold ruthlessness". Letsbe wrote. He obviously doesn't understand that's what separates the best from the others. They are not interested in adopting that old British label of "A good loser".
    Watch Nadal or Federer on the tennis court. They show no mercy until the match is over.
    Or try casting your mind back to Senna-and particularly Prost, who would and did do anything to win. Anyone remember Senna having to be restrained in the pits after an incident in the race with Prost.

  • Comment number 81.

    Have to say it is absolutely disgraceful that some of the posters here aren't acknowledging how good Hakkinen was - instantly came in and outqualified Senna and over time developed into a similarly ruthless, aggressive driver.

    I mean if you want to split hairs, let's nitpick who Hamilton won his world title against - a demotivated, off form Raikonnen, Massa (who has since been shown as above average) and Heiki “number 2 driver“ Kovalinen.

    Schumacher at his peak was pulling off some legendary wins, picking up where Senna left off in dragging unfancied cars to excellent results before taking and developing a dog of a car in the Ferrari into the dominant force that it was.

    It amazes me that people try to ignore or undermine this - they are either in denial or I assume they simply did not watch F1 when he was in his prime. He was a man in his 40s in his comeback for goodness sake.

  • Comment number 82.

    Prost certainly was as bad as Schumacher and Senna hated a lot of the underhand aspects of Formula 1 but sometimes reluctantly employed similar tactics to Prost in order to beat Prost.

    However both Prost and Senna won World Championships against greats in the same equipment without employing unsportsmanlike behaviour to do so.

    Schumacher on the other hand was unsportsmanlike in order to beat drivers who weren't greats of F1 and weren't employing underhand tactics.

    The great shame about Schumacher is that we never got to see him race a great driver in the same equipment and we never got to see him fight for a World Championship with Senna. Would Schumacher have competed on a par with greats of the Senna, Prost, Piquet, Mansell era?

  • Comment number 83.

    @62 twirlip -

    Do you still watch F1?

    Unsportsmanlike comes with the desperation to win and sometimes can cloud your judgement.

    Schumi was no angel and fell for it.

    Along did hakkinan, senna, mansel, Alonso and worse than all these for dangerous inconsiderate driving is Hamilton.

    Or is it when Hamilton does it, its just aggressive driving?

    Living legend and the greatest driver F1 will ever see.

  • Comment number 84.

    Awful article as usual. Biased against Schuey in an apparent tribute to his career? BBC get someone new soon

  • Comment number 85.

    Time catches up with us all, it has with Schumacher, but to get a pole at Monaco at the age of 43 in such a competitive era - respect is due. I doubt most commenting on this page have any idea of the timing and skill required to drive like that, or indeed the effect aging has on that ability.

    I hope he finds a challenge to satisfy his competitive instincts

  • Comment number 86.

    Bob that's the point we don't know how Schumacher would've done against greats but he won in a none great Benneton in 93 against senna and Prost so think what you will off that. The point is Schumacher couldn't just magic up all time great drivers to race against but he did have Hakkinen and intact Hill who I think people underestimate. No he wasn't a great as such but he is 11th all time on win to race ratio on 50 or more career starts actually ahead of Mansell in 12th. So take from that what you will, butto be honest you just sound bitter and or jealous.

    Plus you completely contradict yourself by in your first paragraph admitting that both senna and Prost used underhand tactics and then in your second paragraph saying neither used such unsportsmanlike conduct. So which is it? Did they or didn't they?

    Also it doesn't matter who you are racing or competing against underhand tactics are underhand tactics no matter what. And Both Prost And Senna And the FIA all played a part in this as those two were the first two to do it, and by the FIA allowing it to happen it have young drivers the impression it was okay to do so. Such as if Senna and Prost used such tactics in 89 and 90 why can't I?

    So surely we must look at Schumachers tactics in the same light as Senna and Prost no matter who he was racing.

  • Comment number 87.

    I remember the time that Hakkinen raced alongside Senna it was only for about three races. Senna out qualified Hakkinen twice. Hakkinen crashed once and had a car problem in another, manageing a podium in the one race that he finished, a race which Senna won. Hardly an indicator that Hakkinen was as good as Senna and certainly not enough time to compare his performances with the greats.

    Hakkinen won two World Championships but had a lot of help along the way. Coulthard handed wins to Hakkinen several tmes and the 1999 World Championship Hakkinen was also lucky as Schumacher went out of his way to stop team mate Eddie Irvine from winning the title.

    Hakkinen was hardly charismatic out of the car either and his lack of personality made it very difficult to appreciate his on track performances or support him.

    Taking a poorly performing Ferrari and helping it to win Championships was an achievement for Schumacher but the emergence of Ferrari had a lot to do with politics and not necessarily Schumachers ability to develop a car.

  • Comment number 88.

    I don't see the negativity. Personally I didn't expect him to come back and win the WDC - but I was pleased he came back and shook the grid up a bit. Another world champion couldn't hurt.

    Was it a failure? Only in as much as Mercedes didn't progress into a front runner. It's not like Rosberg was blowing Schumi away and winning races. He got one win, in the only track the Merc has really shown any promise at over the past 3 years - and in that race Schumi was running second before the team forgot to put one of his wheels on.

    Schumi will go down as one of the greats, irrespective of the last 3 years. But in my mind, I respect him more for giving it a go and still having the hunger to drive and compete at the age of 43. It was good entertainment, and that's what I watch F1 for.

    I only wish he'd got a win or two to prevent these kind of stories about how he has tarnished his reputation or damaged his legacy.

  • Comment number 89.

    @87 Ah yes Schumacher breaking his legs in 1999 how could he do such a horrible thing to Eddie Irvine. I mean the cheek of the man to go break his legs, then on his return hand Eddie the win in Malaysia even though he was walking that race. I mean how coul he be so selfish. You either seriously underestimate how good mika Hakkinen was, you are delusional, or you are letting your hatred of a man blind your judgement

  • Comment number 90.

    87. At 23:57 4th Oct 2012, Bob wrote:

    Hakkinen was hardly charismatic out of the car either and his lack of personality made it very difficult to appreciate his on track performances or support him


    Well, each to their own. Personally, I had no trouble appreciating or supporting Mika Hakkinen. Indeed, he was my favourite driver at the time.

    Say what you like, but he won 2 WDC's - an achievement not to be sniffed at no matter how much you might argue they were gifted to him.

    He was also rated by Schumacher as his toughest rival, and I'd like to think the 7xWDC knows what he's talking about.

  • Comment number 91.

    Rach1985 try reading my post again. I separated the paragraphs because Senna and Prost didn't always use underhand tactics to win World Championships against greats. Both Senna and Prost beat greats over a whole season on merit and in the same equipment.

    People can certainly question Prost over his antics but Senna did the same in response to Prost and begrudgingly. Schumacher on the other hand did it without other drivers instigating it like Prost did with Senna.

    One off wins againt drivers are not consistently beating a great driver over the course of a championship. Whether Hill has a better win/race ratio than Mansell is irrelevant because of who Mansell was up against in comparison with Hill.

  • Comment number 92.

    @87 oh and then you add in a dig about Mika's personality seriously?! I mean the guy is shy and can't help who he is. Maybe look at your own life before judging others and how they live theirs. I can understand how some people can't like Michael, but what has mika done to deserve such cruel words? Maybe come back when you are a double world champion and we can all criticise you

  • Comment number 93.

    Furthermore did you watch the BBC interview with Eddie Irvine a few seaons back where he divulged what happened in the final race of the 1999 season?

    It doesn't exactly paint Schumachers behaviour in a good light.

  • Comment number 94.


    Hakkinens like Raikkonens public image is very different to their private ones, it is not his personality, Hakkinen wasn't shy it is a deliberate front and is incredibly rude.

  • Comment number 95.

    @94 so you know Mika intimately have been out with him on severally occasions and basically know how he acts in private on comparision to infront of the camera? Then you also know Kimi and how he is, you know the inner workings of a lot of things in drivers minds. May I ask you why are you only commenting on the blogs and not writing them? Or in fact why aren't you a PA to one of the top drivers? Maybe a mechanic or to me it sounds like you being a team principal since you know so much about the inner workings of a drivers mind? But then again you could just drive the cars I mean if someone as rude as mika Hakkinen can do it then why can't you?

  • Comment number 96.

    With skinny cross ply tyres primitive brakes and suspensions that could have been made in a blacksmiths forge there were some great drivers in the 50s and 60s but guys that drove with them all said Jim Clark was the best so that will do for me. Regarding MS, he was a master at managing his career and the teams he drove for which, along with the untimely death of AS, is the main reason for his impressive record but I can't get past his ramming of DH in Oz, no true champion behaves like that and neither would he have 50 years ago because he'd have killed himself..

  • Comment number 97.

    "Sure, the competition in his heyday was not as deep as it is now, but Schumacher performed miracles with a racing car that stands comparison with the greatest drives of any era."

    Benson, have you forgotten Ferrari's total veto on all other car development during this era ?

    Just thought I'd mention it like, in the interests of balance.....

  • Comment number 98.

    There's one thing that doesn't add up here. If Schumacher, who single-handedly turned Benetton and (with Braun's help) Ferrari into multiple title winners, can't do the same for Mercedes with the talented Rosberg beside him...what is Hamilton playing at?

  • Comment number 99.

    @bob, I seem to recall you said you were going to cancel your tv licence and sell your tv the moment the bbc didn't show a live race.

    If you did and aren't a licence payer anymore I don't agree with you using a website funded by us licence payers to pass comment.

    The bbc is funded by licence payers, the licence payers pay for the production of this website and the blogs provided herein

  • Comment number 100.

    While I have never really been a Schumacher fan, prefering Hakkinen and Kimi, there is no denying that he is an amazing driver who fully deserves to be remembered as an F1 legend. 7 world championships and 91 wins pretty much speaks for itself. He will be missed.


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