“There are those who keep out of mischief, and then there are the adventurers,” the five times world champion Juan Manuel Fangio said in the 1990s. “We racing drivers are adventurers; the more difficult something is, the greater the attraction that comes from it.
“Michael Schumacher is the greatest of the adventurers.”
This quote from the Maestro has always struck me as the best explanation of what drives a true racing driver, but it also sums up the character of Schumacher. He rarely took the easier path.
Whether it be motorcycle racing, in which he suffered a bad accident in February 2009 which prevented him from making a comeback as Felipe Massa’s replacement in August that year, or skydiving or skiing or karting, ordinary life proved too boring for him. That was also what motivated his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 for three more years of challenging himself against the best drivers in the world.
Some drivers reach the end of the road in their careers and realise that the fire has gone out, Damon Hill, is a good example as is Gerhard Berger, Niki Lauda and even Fangio himself. For them a quiet retirement was the goal.
Others still feel the rage to compete and to challenge themselves for many years after their retirement. In many ways it is what makes them feel alive.
And, after challenging themselves by dancing on the edge of calamity for years in a racing car, sadly, many racing drivers come unstuck in the other side of their life, competing in dangerous sports, flying planes and helicopters, continuing to live life on the edge.
One thinks immediately of Robert Kubica’s accident in a fun rally while he was racing F1 with Lotus, then there was Mark Webber, who suffered leg and shoulder injuries while extreme mountain biking.
Tyrrell driver Patrick Depailler broke his legs in a hang gliding accident in 1980.
Didier Pironi was Gilles Villeneuve’s team mate at Ferrari in 1982 and challenged for the world championship. He was killed in a power boating accident.
Emerson Fittipaldi crashed a light aircraft but survived, while rally star Colin McRae fatally crashed a helicopter.
Michael Schumacher is involved in the biggest challenge of his life right now and a fresh medical bulletin is expected mid morning, according to colleagues on the ground in Grenoble.
He is in excellent physical shape and as we all know, is an unbelievable fighter, so he will no doubt give it his all.
His colleagues in F1 and his millions of fans around the world are praying for a positive outcome from this terrible situation.