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Schumacher says the hardest word
Schumacher says the hardest word
Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Aug 2010   |  5:25 pm GMT  |  277 comments

Michael Schumacher has apologised to Rubens Barrichello for trying to put him in the wall in the closing stages of yesterday’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

Writing in German only on his website (the English version of the site does not yet have the post at the time of writing) he says,

“Yesterday right after the race I was still in the heat of the action, but after I watched the scene again with Rubens, I must say that the Stewards are right with their assessment: the manoeuver against him was too harsh. I wanted to make myself of course difficult to overtake. I wanted to make it hard for him to pass me. I clearly showed him that I didn’t want to let him pass. I wasn’t trying to endanger him with my move. If he had this feeling, then sorry, that was not my intention. ”

The reaction against the move has been quite strong and it has kept the media busy this last 24 hours. There have been calls for him to be banned for a race or more and for him to retire, from some quarters. His former team mate Eddie Irvine was very critical of his behaviour and called for him to be more severely punished than the 10 place grid drop he received at the next race.

Although many of Schumacher’s fans have stuck by him and supported his move, with plenty of supportive words among the 400+ comments on this site, 73% of a sample of 8,500 readers on the JA on F1 site said they felt the move was “outrageous”, while 22% said it was “hard but fair.”

The appearance of a photo on the internet showing just how close Barrichello was to the wall, has added to the debate. It is much more graphic than the TV images from yesterday.

Schumacher has rarely said sorry in the past. It is not in his character to accept pressure from other people, particularly the media, to apologise. He was forced by Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo to make a public apology after Jerez 1997, when he drove Jacques Villeneuve off the road and he famously said sorry to the tifosi when he crashed early in the Monaco Grand Prix in 1996, but he has always refused to apologise for parking his car at Rascasse during qualifying for the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix.

It is amazing to think that Schumacher and Barrichello, with a combined age of 79 and a combined total of 556 Grands Prix, who once dominated F1 in Ferraris, were fighting over a single point for 10th place!

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Message to all of the people complaining that motorsport commentators such as ex-F1 drivers are merely envious of Michael Schumacher, or have a grudge, therefore they should be ignored.

Those complaints are irrelevant. They add up to nothing of substance. They are ad hominem fallacies, and have no credibility whatsoever.

The correct response is to focus on what the commentators are saying.

The response “xxx is merely envious” is roughly equivalent to a salesperson saying “you should not buy my competitor’s product because I hear that he cheats on his wife”. Any sensible buyer or prospective buyer would interpret a statement like that as nothing more than irrelevant bitching, and ask themselves: why is the salesperson not talking about how good the product is, and why it is the right product?

So when I read commenters saying things like “Martin Brundle is merely jealous because Schumacher out-qualified him all of the time in 1992”, I merely shrug my shoulders and move to the next comment. Because that assertion is fallacious nonsense, and conceals the reality that most of the time, the comment makes no argument worth the bandwidth.


I am a serious devoted fan of Michael since 1991, and i will not tolerate the media and such like to keep on critising Michael, this was just a race incident and Michael did not mean to shock Rubens, why cant you just leave Michael alone and stop bringing up the past to what he might of done or said. after all you would do the same if you were frustrated like Michael with a grotty package and a grotty car, all everyone including Rubens seems to harp on him and whine and whinge like a spoiled load of children. I have found no fault with Michael okay he has some but i have never seen them yet. just give him a break and stop hounding this poor great sportsman. if he decides to leave after next season, i cant blame him, this motorsport is getting to bitchy.


Why, in heck, M. Brundle would be envious of Schumacher?

Qualifying results :

afs92 = 6. MSC 1:17.635 / 8. BRU 1:18.327

mex92 = 3. MSC 1:17.292 / 4. BRU 1:18.588

sma92 = 5. MSC 1:23.701 / 6. BRU 1:23.904

mon92 = 6. MSC 1:21.831 / 7. BRU 1:22.068

can92 = 5. MSC 1:20.456 / 7. BRU 1:21.738

fra92 = 5. MSC 1:15.569 / 7. BRU 1:16.151

ang92 = 4. MSC 1:22.066 / 6. BRU 1:23.489

all92 = 6. MSC 1:41.132 / 9. BRU 1:42.136

hon92 = 4. MSC 1:16.524 / 6. BRU 1:18.148

bel92 = 3. MSC 1:53.221 / 9. BRU 1:54.973

ita92 = 6. MSC 1:23.629 / 9. BRU 1:24.551

por92 = 5. MSC 1:15.356 / 6. BRU 1:16.084

jap92 = 5. MSC 1:40.922 / 13. BRU 1:42.626

aus92 = 5. MSC 1:15.210 / 8. BRU 1:16.562



I cant help but feel (with all due respect) if it was a better driver than rubens, i.e. a World Champion, then he would have dealt with schumacher a little more skillfully and the move wouldnt have looked as bad. I still don’t think it was as bad as people are making it out, i think the fans opinions are being a bit manipulated by the tv pundits and other drivers, couldn’t help but detect a hint of hatred/jealousy in some of their voices.



It is interesting to see all the comments here and the various opinions stated.

But there is one opinion on this incident that really annoys me – that of David Coulthard. How can he, someone who deliberately caused an actual accident in 1998 at Spa, comment on this with a straight face?


I think a lot of the “hype” over the move was stired up by the BBC..



I just wonder how much airtime this move would have received if it wasnt schu and furthermore a supposedly bitter ex team mate. I mean the pass massa made on webber at fuji 08 down the pit straight with webber squeezing him could have ended in tears but it didnt and was a great move and noone talked about it. I remember Legard saying on Sunday “What if a car was coming down the pitlane?”Noone said it during the fuji 08 occasion.

I answered tough but fair.


James, what must the Mercedes Board of Directors think of this unwanted attention surrounding their brand name? They weren’t too enthusiastic about taking over the Brawn operation in the first place and now this happens. One wonders if they will find cause to look again at Schumacher’s contract?


It’s part of the game. All companies involved in F1 realise that. There were some who got uncomfortable over the breakaway last summer and others who didn’t like the Singapore crash scandal, but this is grist to the mill



I must have rewinded the tape 15 times to watch the absolutely excellent pass Rubens put on Schumacher. Funny thing was, Martin Brundle stating seconds earlier that Rubens didn’t have the ‘cajones’ to do the work. The best way to look at the move is in real time… and not still photos.

It is two of the most experienced, and winning drivers ever, giving each other centimetres of space. The move takes place in a time/ space — call it ‘reality’ — that the average bloke simply could not understand, adjust to or follow through on.

Sure, subsequently, Rubens could call it the most dangerous moment of his driving career but it was also one of his finest. He had his eye firmly planted on the end of the edge of the pit wall and knew precisely how much driving was needed to pass Schumacher.

Unbelievable. And to think that in that same instant, Schumacher also knew just how much was too little a width to offer. Within centimetres and at 180mph.

These guys know each other better than you and I could ever do. There may be some competitive angst towards each other but it is balanced against a knowledge of their ‘craft’ that makes them one of the hundred or so people ever to win a F1 GP.

It is the kind of thing that sets apart an F1 pilot from the rest of us.

I’m pleased about the penalty. It wasn’t ‘reckless’ driving in the sense that both drivers put their cars into spots which only left the likelihood of one coming out in front. Rubens persevered.

So I answer the survey as “tough but fair”.


Andrew C.


Skilled though both drivers were, it left no room for error on what was a dirty part of the track — in fact it was off the track; by which I mean over the white line. Both drivers were gambling on a mixture of luck and ability.


I’m curious as to whether he will be able to qualify high enough in Spa to cop the full 10 place penalty. He needs 14th or better.

JA, want to start a poll?


Another good idea, thanks


OK, this might not go down too well but I’ve always wondered about this. First of all, yes it was a dangerous maneuver and the stewards were right to punish it. Naturally, the ‘anti-Schumacher crowd’ (for want of a better expression) jump on it as an example of why Schumacher is not the ‘greatest of all time’. So I have to ask James if possible and anyone else – why are Senna’s dangerous moves (Suzuka 1990 etc) and his ruthless aggression given as proof of him being the greatest of all time by many of the same people who find Schumacher “too dirty”? Top Gear had a fantastic film recently about why Senna was so great, and Martin Brundle cited, among many things, a pass Senna attempted on him which ended in a crash, yet he found Schumacher’s move unacceptable. Personally I think it’s John Lennon syndrome – an early death seems to erase all the bad points of one’s career – but I’m genuinely interested to see why people think this is without rose-tinted spectacles in any direction.

As for my personal view on the situation, I think that Schumacher was over the top (despite being a fan) and deserved the penalty, but I’m a little saddened by the fact that the talk is on Schumacher’s move, not Barrichello’s brilliant pass.


It’s a big subject. A bit of an imponderable and Senna’s death certainly contributed to his canonisation. His education and style gave him a head start, Schumacher was always awkward in comparison. Both had the same ultra competitive drive you find in athletes like Armstrong and few others. But compare Senna closing Mansell down as he passed him in Barcelona in 1991 with Schumacher slamming the door shut in Budapest.


I think that this shows another aspect of racing. A driver’s decision to race hard depends on who he is racing.

I think that Senna clearly respected Mansell more than Schumacher respects Barichello.

An obvious point perhaps, but do you think that the other drivers feel that Schumacher doesn’t respect them enough on the track? Is this why Hamilton gets so much flak from the other drivers as well?


I think to be honest Martin Brundle has some needle with Schumacher as they both drove for Benetton in 1992. Sadly for Martin, Schumacher out qualified him at every single race and Brundle found himself dropped from the Benetton team for the 1993 season.

As for Martins comments on the text the BBC Forum had, I think the original texter wasn’t reffering to Senna taking out Prost at Japan (the year after Prost took out Senna to win the championship..) I think the texter was reffering to the many times Senna moved across the track at Hungry to put people up against the wall to stop them passing him.. even his own team mate at the time.


I only will post a video ans picture extracted from that video : Rubens is stupid and at fault to start passing Michael using the safety lane on the right of Michael! the left side was wide open and much better path for the next curve after the pitlane exit.


Therefore he deserved to be pressed against the wall or what?


Not what I’m saying. However, I believe Rubens was excited about his ability to get its revenge on Michael and this is why he choosed to pass him in front of the stand and eveen if it means to start passing the white line of track’s border! He didn’t care about hte fact that passing him on the right at this spot would automatically makehim cross blindly the pit exit lane.

They’re both culprit on that one in my opinion!


It looks like I’m one of the few guys here who supports the F1, not a specific driver or team. I like some drivers more than others, of course, but I’ll never go blind and deny their mistakes, just for the sake of being the ultimate Schumacher fan, or Alonso, or Hamilton, or whoever. If one don’t see that that move was extremely dangerous, then I don’t know what to say. Maybe just “be a lunatic fan of some driver and support their bad attitudes until the end”. And if Barrichello was in a hospital after an horrible crash, I bet that some people would still argue that Schumacher was right, it is on “his blood to be a ferocious champion”, which would be an absurd. The problem with this kind of support from a part of the crowd is that this kind of things can happen again and again.


I could not agree more. Well said Gilberto!


Before the race I watched the highlights of the 1998 race on the bbc website. It was really good to remind myself of just how great Schumacher really was.

Sadly the guy is clearly well past his best and moves like Sunday really just demonstrate his fustration and desperation.

Inside he knows he is no longer the greatest driver but simply a good one, I suspect what you are seeing is him trying to deal with that. Knowing his personality, I can imagine it must be very hard for him to accept.



I agree with Paul on many points. Yes the move on Sunday was over the top, it didn’t need to happen, but the widespread condemnation is really quite unbearable for any Schumi fan out there.

Eddie Jordan’s critical analysis is getting cheaper by the week, asking Rubens “Was this the most dangerous maneuver against you have ever witnessed?” was journalistic hype. It put the words in his mouth, all he then had to say was “yes” and the world’s tabloids had a field day.

Further, the post race forum was so ugly. Sadly the only balance came from a viewer who emailed in saying,

“how is it Schumacher’s fault? He was trying to hold position. Senna did the same thing putting the other guy in a compromising position and is stilled hailed as the greatest.”

Martin Brundle shared his thoughts on why it was Schumacher’s fault, which was his entitlement. However, he didn’t answer the Senna comparison until the anchor Jake Humphreys pressed him on it saying

“[what about] the Senna comparison on that?.. there is a general feeling that Senna was a guy who would give no quarter, and Schumacher did something similar in that situation, [however] Senna is hailed as probably the greatest driver that ever lived, but schumacher is getting a lot of stick at the moment.”

Martin’s reply was unbelievable!

“The whole Senna v Prost was a different deal on a different day. He [Senna] declared he was going to do that, he didn’t hide it. The problem with Michael is that this is his default. I don’t want to beat up on Michael but it his is default response when he is under pressure… There is a line there is a limit when you don’t expect them to clearly run you off the road”

What! How can you justify Senna and condemn Schumacher??

So let me understand this one Martin, Senna’s move was okay because “he didn’t hide it”? So if we just tell our fellow drivers we are going to pull an outrageous move, that’s okay? Was Senna not crossing “a line when you don’t expect them to clearly run you off the road?”

That’s just old fashioned double mindedness. What on earth was Martin going on about?

This is just like other Schumacher stories from the 90’s. Widespread british journalism that is filled with bad taste and prejudice.

James, I would like to thank you for your fair analysis in your book on Schumacher “the edge of greatness” and your balanced thoughts on the recent incident with Barrichello. Could you please comment or write an article as to why people “think Senna was so different?”

Why does the world media hail Senna as the greatest and Schumacher as “flawed” when they were just as ruthless as one another?

This needs to be answered! Thank you.


Agree completely.


Technically, Schumacher DIDN’T apologise and I’m very glad he didn’t. If you look at the frankly ludicrous display of yapping, whining, bitching, moaning, crying and bleating by Barrichello since I’d have been appalled if Michael had decided he’d been out of order. Whither your flung steering wheel Rubens?!!

Here’s an interesting tale that I find quite pertinent to this episode though. Professor Sid Watkins related an anecdote once of how he’d been a passenger in the safety car in the late 80s, and a driver had gone off track somewhere at (I think) the German Grand Prix and ended up in the trees. Close to the accident spot was a gap in the fencing through which the safety car driver of the day aimed, and made it through at very high speed with no problems.

The F1 driver was taken care of, but afterwards Watkins was curious about that gap, so he went back long after the race had ended, and measured the exact width of it, and then measured the width of the safety car. He realised the gap in the fence was precisely ONE INCH wider than that of the car, and estimated that the safety car was doing close to 100mph at the time. He was staggered at the sheer precision of the driver, particularly given that this was a driver who WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH to make the cut for Formula 1!

Now, my point is – if a safety car driver can display such forensic ability to guage space and gaps at high speed, how much more able should the 7 times world champion be? And if we agree that, yes, he ought to be perfectly capable of squeezing with millimetric precision without going that couple of inches too far, then what was the problem? He left a Williams-sized space, Rubens took it without lifting, end of story.

The rest is merely sensation, hypocrisy and mock-outrage.


Great anecdote about the safety car.

“What was the problem?” you say? Post race in his interview with the BBC, Schumacher said he had a 5cm wide target for the corner line and he missed it and wrecked his exit. So even a 7-times champion knows that he does not always have that millimetric precision you mentioned. He was very lucky.


Don’t get the anti-british sentiment at all. Schui is/was the best driver of his generation. he is clearly frustrated at having an inferior car and a set up that works quite differently to 3 years ago. But he should have the skill, experience and knowledge to know what is fair but hard and what is dangerous – and the grace to accept that in the heat of racing he may cross that line as judged by the stewards.

Apologies just show people that you accept that decision – nothing more. Not sure this was an apology though so I don’t think that Schui realises how dangerous that move was. Still a great driver.

What has this got to do with “the british”?


blah, blah, blah!

I hope we have some needle in Interlagos. Schumacher will need to arrive/leave by helicopter!


That is magnamous indeed.

If Rubens is a soft spoken, fantastic person great driver etc etc., why has he not spologised for throwing the steering wheel on to the track at Monoco.

That is the diffrence between a True Champion & an ordinary F1 driver.


That is magnamous indeed. Michale is a True Champion.

If Rubens is a soft spoken, fantastic person grat driver etc etc., why has he not spologised for throwing the steering wheel on to the track at Monoco.

That is the diffrence between a True Champion & an oridinary F1 driver.


That is magnamous indeed. He is a True Champion.

I am still expecting an apology form Rubens for throwing the steering wheel on to the track at Monoco.


I’ve seen some outragious moves by Schumacher in the past, the worst in my view, being in Canada a few years ago when he put HH-Frentzen on the grass … But the move on Rubens on Sunday was a heart-stopping moment! I had to watch it again and again because at first I didn’t believe it was that close to the pit wall!

Good job on Rubens for keeping his foot down in such a moment, but I’m most thankful that nobody was exiting the pits at the same time … The resulting crash (if there had been) would’ve been horrific.

I have no respect for Schumacher, he has gotten away with so many dangerous moves in F1 in the past and well done to the stewards, it’s about time he was punished for his exploits. It’s one thing to race hard but fair, but quite another to put another competitor in such a dangerous situation … It shows a lack of respect to the others on the race track.

I’m glad he has apologised, but has he done so because he means it or is it because he has been caught and punished for it and doesn’t like the backlash from fans?


Even Senna wasnt this cold hearted. Racing is tough business and risk is part of the game and yes, to be the best you must have a ruthless streak but what Schumacher did can be described as attempted murder. He is well past his sell by date and is doing his image and reputation no favours. Be gone!


You mean when Senna deliberatley drove into Prost in suzuka 1990 after stating before and after that he would put himself in this position because the grid position for pole wasn’t changed over. Here is an excerpt from

So I said to myself, “OK, whatever happens, I’m going to get into the first corner first — I’m not prepared to let the guy (Alain Prost) turn into that corner before me. If I’m near enough to him, he can’t turn in front of me — he just has to let me through.” I didn’t care if we crashed; I went for it. And he took a chance, turned in, and we crashed. It was building up, it was inevitable. It had to happen.”

Schumacher is capable of some ruthless, calculated and dangerous moves, no question. To suggest that other drivers of that era weren’t is disingenuous.


At least Senna told you what he was going to do and out of the Car, Senna, in my opinion had a big heart. Spa 1992 Qualifying, Senna got out of his car to help Comas. Cant see Schumacher doing that. Schumacher’s manoeuvre on Rubens was, yes Senna like ruthless but his attitude out of the car was totally unlike Senna and showed no remorse. Schumacher’s apology has been ordered by Mercedes and Ross Brawn as a face saving gesture. Schumacher is attempting to prove that he still has what it takes. He doesn’t, not any more. He quit while he was ahead and should have stayed out.


It is a moot point, but I don’t personally see how saying that you are going to deliberately drive into someone (and it was premeditated from before the start of the race) and refusing to take responsibility afterwards is better than the incident on Saturday. You describe Schumacher’s move as attempted murder, but if someone had been killes in at Suzuka in 1990 that actually would have been murder as it was premeditated. Follow that link I posted and read what Senna says afterwards. He showed no remorse and I don’t think he ever apologised.

I can agree that Senna was a more inspiring person out of the car, and he certainly did a lot of good with the power and influence that his fame and adoration bought him. I can see why the majority of people feel he was the greatest. Many of the other drivers have very warm personal stories about him. It adds to the enigma and the legend.

But for me the actions on track of both men speak very loudly, good and bad.


James, lots of comments, but I’ve not so far seen any discussion of the initial cause of the incident.

His Mercedes gave him a horsepower advantage over the Cosworth down the straight. And, as we’d seen in the preceding laps, ordinarily he would/should have been able to keep Rubens behind.

However, Michael made a significant mistake by over-steering under pressure entering the final corner. Giving Rubens chance to get a tow at the start of the straight which ultimately led to the squeeze and overtake.

Perhaps his momentary embarrassment (self doubt?) over this elementary error triggered his excessively aggressive attempt to defend.

Can you share your opinions of this and what it reveals about MS mark II ?


The main point is that Barrichello was on new soft tyres and Schumacher on old hard ones. The speed difference was very significant and made a pass inevitable

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