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A special weekend ahead for Schumacher
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Posted By: James Allen  |  22 Aug 2011   |  10:32 pm GMT  |  71 comments

This weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix at Spa marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Schumacher’s F1 debut at the wheel of a Jordan-Ford, a truly astonishing statistic.

Schumacher becomes the first F1 driver in history to still be active 20 years after his debut. He also took his first F1 win at Spa in 1992. It is also 17 years since he was disqualified from victory in the 1994 race for having worn down the plank under his floor too much, and 7 years ago at Spa he clinched his 7th world title.

“Everything for me comes back to Spa. The race will certainly have a special touch to it this time, as this is where I drove my first ever Formula One race 20 years ago,” said Schumacher. “It’s hard to believe that this was such a long time ago. A lot has changed in those 20 years, but one thing has not: the track is still sensational. I just love the great nature of the location and the resulting layout with all the ups and downs. To me, Spa remains my ‘living room’, because it has been the stage for so many things which have been remarkable for my sporting career.”

42 years old and still smiling (Darren Heath)

Spa has also many other memories for him; his astonishing battle with Mika Hakkinen in 2000, his win in 1995 from nowhere on the grid, the collision with Coulthard, the list is endless. As a six times winner of the race and many other podiums there, it’s the place which is probably most synonymous with him as a racer.

I remember his debut as if it were yesterday. He was on the pace immediately, in fact I was standing at the top of Eau Rouge with the legendary writer Denis Jenkinson and Schumacher caught his attention straight away for his commitment through the high speed corner. In those days before it was modified and made easier, it was not a simple flat-out corner, it was a huge challenge.

At the end of Friday practice Jenks gave me what he thought was the top five based on simply seeing cars go through Eau Rouge and Schumacher was among them. When we got to the press office and studied the times, his top five order was exactly right!

There was a lot of hype around the young German and within a fortnight he had been poached by Tom Walkinshaw and Flavio Briatore to drive for Benetton, with whom he went on to win two world titles in 1994 and ’95.

Of course it’s not an unbroken sequence of 20 years, as he had three years of retirement before deciding to comeback. He’s already said that he will do the third year of his three years with Mercedes, despite a disappointing lack of results.

All eyes will be on Schumacher and his unique celebration this weekend.

Here’s a Mercedes generated interview with Schumacher, which looks back at 1991, but also asks him some searching questions about his comeback and his performance against Nico Rosberg

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1

An F1 fan is heartfelt, this Schumacher. SUDDENLY! This his 7 championship is forgot!!! But a man of immense pounding pace cannot be forgot!!! A tear will be given by me. Let you weep for Michael Schumacher in his SPA battle. I harden.

2

Schumy is the champion. If Mercedes would give him a good car we’ll be seeing some other champions ass-kicked and at 42 years old !!!

3

Great article James, proud that can witness the anniversary of Michael Schumacher legendary career. Living Legend.

4

Great article James, proud that can witness the anniversary of Michael Schumacher legendary career.

And interesting stuffs from Sauber and Franz Tost:

http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/93894

http://www.motorsport.com/#/f1/news/f1-schumacher-should-stay-if-formula-one-still-fun-tost

5

I love the fact Schumacher is still on the grid.

I like the fact that the same guy that raced with Mansell, Senna, Prost and Piquet back in 1991 is still going wheel to wheel with Hamilton and Vettel today.

He’s like the link to a previous age, linking up different era’s and I think it’s great.

Ok he is not as quick as he was, but he is still remarkably competitive for a 42 year old. This is purely down to his talent.

6

Beautiful remark! Thanks Paul D!

7

20 years and still going. That just speaks volume. I am glad to have been part of the 14 years of his career and will continue on forever! good luck this weekend schumi 🙂 hope to see a repeat of Montreal this year

8

Yes and lets better that!

9

I respect Michael more this time around in his F1 career he having fun with F1 and he can stay on the grid as long as he wants he earned it. He still make more money than any one on the grid today.

I just hope Ross Brawn and Mercedes can give Michael a fast car next year so he can experiencing winning again. Like Ross Brawn was able give to Rubens with Brawn Gp team and their fast cars.

I do respect that both the Ex Ferrari team mates who are still on the grid battling it out on different teams after all these years, they bring class to the sport.

10

With all said n’ done… I wasn’t born in Fangio era but am proud to witness the Schumacher era.

Anyone who criticizes him must realize… he has delivered things which others can only dream of.

Indeed, he is currently struggling… but in his prime he made legends nervous… how many can show the very determination as he shown at his current age?

Enjoy till he is racing 🙂

11

James,

Somewhat off the topic, but I was very interested to see your reference to Jenks, particularly after reading WB’s obit last week. I followed Grand Prix, as they were known in the 50’s and 60’s, almost entirely through the medium of ‘Motor Sport’ and DJ’s long race reports. There was virtually no reporting of continental GP’s in the national papers unless there was some lurid accident, so it was often 3-4 weeks before we knew what happened at Spa or Casablanca.

Three weeks ago I was reading that F1 ‘enthusiasts’ would loose interest if they couldn’t watch races live and for nothing. Kids these days!

Keep up the good work. I’ve been beginning to see you as DJ’s spiritual successor.

With many thanks-

David Cutting

12

Resource reduction is STILL playing a role in F1 to the detriment of Mercedes and other teams. McLaren, RBR, and Ferrari all have more personel and money involved then the rest because of the way the agreement was structured. I expect the Mercedes to be better in Schuey’s final year. I hope it is.

13

Hi Guys;

Interesting comments indeed, however for me its the reflexes that count. @ 42 he has made most out of his starts because of his reaction time as the lights go off.

That has been unequaled by anyone so far. And to have such a good reaction time better than some drivers almost half his age, I know he has nt lost it.

It may seem they might need say a year more or in the current contract. And my gut felling is Micheal is up for it.

The doomsayers are still goint to see him for at least a couple of years more!

Sikhumbuzo Thomo

14

I also remember Spa 2004 for the first race where I saw Schumacher beaten in a straight shootout, by a car that was considered less that the Ferrari: young Kimi Raikkonen.

15

Oh yes,

his ’95 battle with Hill was the best I have ever seen – and I have watched almost every F1 race since ’89. Fabulous!

At the top of his first career together with his Ferrari “Dream Team” he set the performance level so high, most other drivers/teams then and now often look like amateurs.

He has always been stubborn and has never given up, even at desperate situation. Seems to me this stubbornness is helping him to weather these 2 difficult seasons at Mercedes.

I hope next year Mercedes will finally deliver a car good enough for what probably will be his final year in F1!

16

I think He still has it. Yes he has made mistakes but his comebacks through the field has been great to watch. I hope Michael really get the car hooked up on Spa and deliver the kind of result that he is capable of. Michael is still there and everyone knows that Mercedes just needs to get up there and produce a good car. Nico has not really convincingly out performed Michael this year for me.

17

I think the number of wins (or performance of drivers) at Spa is the best reflection of a driver calibre and natural gift. Its a fantastic track, it is just shame that F1 management is not more keen to keep it as brand DNA. I would give the track a special name/prestige in the F1 calendar (like Indy 500) instead of making it a biannual track.

18

Its been a dissapointing comeback for Schuey. First year he was rusty, but towards the end of the year I was starting to see glimpses of the old guy coming back.

Mercedes have failed to produce a car thats good enough for either of its drivers, and hopefully they will upscale their resources in the right places for next year.

I still hear that Paul Di Resta will be at MGP next year. Whether thats replacing Nico who I doubt will stay is another matter.

I think both MGP drivers are capable of winning, I just dont think the car is, and by some margin (barring an attritional race).

19

This year I think he’s looked a lot better, but ironically the car seems to be worse relatively than last year.

20

Great anecdote with Dennis Jenkinson. Thanks for that.

21

F1 is a much richer and fulfilling sport with the excellence of Michael Schumacher in it. I am very fortunate to have shared the past 20 years with my sons as they grew up, watching the genius at work. F1 Sundays are still special now they are 20, 21 and 22. Keep going, Schumy!

22

I’m a massive Schumacher fan. I didn’t attend my first race until 2008 so thought I’d missed out on seeing him in action, but then he came back and I am going to Spa this weekend to watch him race and achieve this landmark.

I am 19 years old, it’s incredible to think he made his debut before I was born! His first team-mate was Nelson Piquet, in those 20 years Piquet’s son’s career has been and gone! But here’s Michael still on the grid.

To still be reasonably competitive at 42 is amazing. I’m hoping for a strong result for him more than ever this weekend.

23

6 wins..The Spa specialist will show his magic this weekend

24

A great track, loved by the drivers and the fans.

Michael is no fool. His committment to a third year will be based on specific improvements to the car.

How special would a podium be for Schumi, for Mercedes and for the sport this weekend?

25

Michael made F1 a delight to watch. His battles with Mika were some of the best battles I have seen (especially in those times).

At Spa so many years ago, Coulthard, being the gentleman he is, slowed down so Schumacher could pass (clearly Michael was faster). But Schumacher had not expected this and they collided. How exciting it was, as the camera followed Schumacher, as he stormed to Coulthard’s pitbox, Jean Todt in tow trying to hold Schuey back. Had Schumacher won that race, that championship was his. It would have made it eight in total. Subsequent races saw Michael starting at the back of the grid, and as a result Mika took the WDC (much to his wife’s delight – who always seemed ready to spank him if he has lost).

Presently, Michael is nine wins from a century. But, I don’t think he will become a centurion. If he hadn’t retired from F1 three years ago, he could have had at least 8 championships and over 100 wins (based on Raikkonen’s WDC and Massa’s “almost” WDC in the Ferrari). He would have truly been untouchable.

Who could blame him for coming back? Mercedes was going to be a dream team. On paper, it was a fairytale story: Mercedes and Schumacher’s comeback, an all-German driver lineup/team, a championship winning Brawn car and fans seeing Schumacher on the podium again. Oh it was going to be divine!

Oh well…..he is still a champion in my eyes.

26

It’s so pity Merc is not on top of game, perhaps one could to look MS’s fair battle for the podium, alas there won’t be such an opportunity.

But now, perhaps other young German will challenge case. (though, for the time seems like SPA favorite is not German)

27

I think MS biggest problem this year is qualifying , his race pace in the last two or three races was very good , it was better than Rosberg’s at some point. Because he qualifies lower than Rosberg he ussually has to work his way up the field and this why Rosberg finishes ahead of him in races.

28

To be honest i am tired of the press being always negative about Schumacher.

He has been brilliant this season , and why the press and specially the BBCF1 (DC) so against him every time ?

It’s so stupid comparing him with Lewis and Alonso and Vettel why? He showed the world what he could do when he was at 23 or 27!

The real question should be will Lewis or Alonso or Vettel or for that matter Rosberg be as good as Michael when they are 42!

Problem with Michael is people expect him to win every race , He will not because Mercedes is not good enough and not even next year.

How many champions with so many wins and records have balls enough to come back and risk everything? That is Michael Schumacher.

29

It was a joy to see him in the mix at Canada!

I so much wish this man a great car and a podium finish. I am gutted Mercedes GP is wasting his comeback.

Next year will be his final year in his contract. Mercedes GP has got to extend his contract if they fail to give him a decent car next year.

30

Proud to say I went to spa last year, my first and so far only grand prix visit, mostly to see schumi. my best mate and I sat at eau rouge during the race. It was sensational, gives me shivers just recalling the sound of the cars filing through the corner…

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