As it did the first time round, The Brazilian Grand Prix saw the retirement of the most successful Formula One driver ever, Michael Schumacher. Having come out of retirement to join Mercedes in 2010, there was great anticipation about what he could achieve.
Formula One Big Cheese, Bernie Ecclestone, said,
“Forget about winning races – I have him on my bill for winning the championship. It’s fantastic for Formula 1 that he turned into a ‘comeback kid’ but at the same time it’s good for Michael. Now he has all his strength together and has 100% motivation that will give us many exciting races in 2010.”
The expectations heaped on the seven times World Champion proved too great, but over the last three years we have been treated to some glimpses of the dazzling driving we are used to from the racing icon. Here are some of the highlights of his return:
Canadian Grand Prix 2011
The Canadian Grand Prix in 2011 saw Schumacher narrowly miss out on a return to the podium. In a race that was started behind the safety car due to inclement weather conditions making it too dangerous to commit to starting as normal, tyre choice became crucial in terms of strategy and gaining position. The decision to use intermediate tyres following a second safety car stint proved astute, as lap times tumbled and Schumacher was able to move up the field. Following numerous other safety car appearances, and a break of two hours during the race, by about lap 51 the track was becoming more conducive to the use of slicks. Michael was flying on his, and used this advantage to bolt up the field and take second position behind Sebastian Vettel. Sadly, this was to be temporary as he was unable to fend off Jenson Button and Mark Webber, leaving him in fourth place. He finished the race with mixed feelings saying,
“I am leaving this race with one eye laughing and one eye crying, as I am not sure if I should be excited or sad about it.” ”Having been in second place towards the end, I would obviously have loved to finish there and be on the podium again. “
Belgian Grand Prix 2011
Holding a special place in his heart, the race at Spa in 2011 was an apt setting for the celebration of Michael Schumacher’s twenty years in Formula One. Events didn’t quite go as planned when the loss of a rear wheel during qualifying placed him at the back of the grid. In a demonstration that the Schumacher magic has not entirely dissipated, the honorary citizen of Spa made up nineteen places during the race and overtook his team mate to seize fifth position.
Italian Grand Prix 2011
Although Michael Schumacher was heavily criticised for making multiple moves across the track in order to defend his fifth position from Lewis Hamilton, the race in Monza treated us to some of the ‘on the edge’ driving that he is famous for. In a display reflective of his skills at the height of his reign, the German took racing courtesy to the brink as he kept the McLaren driver behind him for 21 laps.
Pole position in Monaco 2012
Mark Webber started the race around the Principality from Pole Position but it wasn’t the affable Australian who recorded the fastest lap time during qualifying. Instead it was Michael Schumacher who, in the dying moments of a thrilling third Qualifying session, flew across the line 0.08 seconds faster than Webber. However, as in the Canadian Grand Prix in 2011, joy was mixed with sorrow as he had to endure a five place grid penalty for his misdemeanor against Bruno Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix, meaning he wasn’t able to claim it as his 69th career pole position. However, this was Monaco legend Michael Schumacher, showing his fans, and critics, that he is still capable of producing a performance worthy of his iconic status.
European Grand Prix 2012
Valencia saw Schumacher returning to his rightful place on the podium. Though not on the top step, it was an emotional reunion between the two. Starting from twelfth, he weaved and maneuvered his way through the pack to run in fourth. The incident between Pastor Maldonado and Lewis Hamilton on lap 55 opened a window through which he climbed to claim a well deserved third position.
Although his comeback scarcely made an imprint in terms of results, it leaves a different legacy to the one left in 2006. During his first stint in the sport, Michael was thought of as robotic in his approach to racing. His unrelenting desire to win was often misconstrued and mistaken for arrogance. His second stint, and not being in a position to take victories, has created an air of gracious humility with an ever increasing touch of the personable. Bernie Ecclestone may think his comeback was a mistake, “that it tarnished his legacy,” but the truth is that he leaves with a greater amount of love and respect, which can only decorate his existing achievements further.