Never Before and Never Ever…..

Warning: The Following is a very large blog. So if you dont have the patience to read the entire thing, please go to the next blog post.

So again, stating a fact, Michel Schumacher will not be driving his Ferrari in F1 anymore. One more fact is that I have been a Schumi fan ever since I first started to watch F1. I really cannot point out what exactly it was that drew me to him. I wont say it was his style of driving or anything because I was not analyzing F1 professionally. It was just that I liked him- probably for the fact that he was trying to win his first title with Ferrari ever since he joined. I still remember the race- it was the Monaco Grand Prix of the 2000 season. That was when I started watching F1. I don’t exactly recollect the results. But all I remember is that I knew who I was going to be supporting from then on.

And what a journey it has been. I still remember the way Michael broke down into tears at Monza in the 2000 season. I still remember him coming in front of Mika Hakkinen after the second round of pit stops in the final Japanese Grand Prix that season. I still remember him almost driving over the grass when he lost control on his slowing down lap after that win because he had just put his head in his hands and was crying. I still remember the way he overcame an initial fight by Coulthard to take the second Championship in a row. I still remember all those memorable Hakkinen- Schumi fights that took place all the year through. I still remember that Spanish Grand Prix when Hakkinen was leading Schumi by over 50 seconds into the final lap and Schumi having to go a bit slow as his car was not perfect and then next thing I see is Hakkinen’s car just blowing up with less than half a lap to go. And then I still remember the way I celebrated that night- I in fact have a recording of the commentary when the blow up took place. But of course one cant deny Hakkinen making “that” move on Michael at Spa with Ricardo Zonta lurking in front of them both. That was simply put a magnificent race for Mika. I guess Mika will always be remembered for that move on Michael.

And of course I still remembered the day his mother passed away and he didn’t celebrate his race victory. And I still remember the way he stamped his authority over each and every driver on the circuit. All the others were made to look like just pawns on the chess board where he laid down the rules. So there came another title and then another. Some began to question his age and said that he should be retiring. Michael knew better. Instead he fought on the likes of Raikkonen and Montoya. Though initially it promised to be a close contest, in the end Michael just made sure that it was nowhere close to what they must have thought of. In fact I remember distinctly something Kimi said in some interview after the season in which he came second. He said, “Sometimes I think I am going to win all the races!” Now that is something I would like to see!

And so after 5 years of the undisputed reign of the Prancing Horses, I guess it was time the others woke up and did something about the Monopoly. And so came Renault and Mclaren. And Ferrari was left dreaming about what was going to happen. It was the worst season ever for Ferrari since a long time, producing only one win and that too in that Indianapolis Fiasco. But all said and done, it was good to see Alonso come up with some scintillating performances. For that season I have to say he was the deserved Champion.

But come 2006 and things changed big time. Ferrari were back. But it took them some time in catching up with the pace of Renault. And at one point, Schumi was like 25 points behind Alonso. And then something happened that could have been called anything short of a miracle. But no! It was not a miracle. It was a phenomenon called Michael Schumacher!

That drive at San Marino and the subsequent wins took him at sniffing distance to Alonso. And then when he announced his retirement, I was almost on the verge of tears. I just prayed that he would change his decision though deep inside I knew that nothing like that would ever happen. And of course, then eventually he caught up with Alonso and then all of us know what happened in that penultimate Grand Prix. Schumi leading with 15 laps to go and his engine gives way.

That was one of the real heart breaking moments for me in quite some time. I felt more disappointed than what I felt when I had to end my relationship with someone close to me. It was like the end of the road. The end of all hopes. For a few moments it was as if the world came to a stand still. And when I got back to reality I realized that it was indeed over. The last race was just a formality. But what was I to feel? I don’t know what I felt but what I do remember is that I didn’t make any effort to feel at all.

And when I saw that he was going to start from 10th on the grid, I felt really depressed. Ferrari had a great package that day at Interlagos. And when I saw Michael overtake Fischichella for 5th place, my heart leapt only to skip a beat when his tyre got punctured. And he went into the pits and came out at the dead end of the field. And what happened in the next 1 hour or so can only be called as miraculous or in his case, just a Michael Schumacher. He ran through the track like a blazing rocket- a rocket with a purpose. There was no one that could match his place. There he was in 13th place and he was setting fastest laps- lap after lap. Clearly the fastest on the track. And then as people came out of their second pit stop, Michael was already where he was before, and pushing. A few drivers tried to hold him back- Pffft- just a couple of laps at the max. Robert Doornbos will remember doing the most noble thing ever done- letting Michael go through without a damn fight! And then he runs into Barrichello. The BAR Honda team reminds Rubens that he is still “racing Michael”! Like it would make a difference! 2 laps and then Michael was past Rubens. Next stop: Fischichella! He makes his first attempt at overtaking in the first corner but somehow Gincarlo wards it off. And then came the second attempt. And it was then that you could see the disparity in driving between the veteran and any other. Michael simply pushed him hard. And all Gincarlo could do was to brake late- in fact a bit too late. And he had a grassy moment, letting Michael go through. So there it was 4 laps to go and Michael was in 5th place 8 seconds behind Raikkonen, the man replacing him next season at Ferrari. And needless to say Michael was still charging. God help Kimi! I watched as he chipped away the gap into the Finn’s Mclaren and immediately posed a challenge for the 4th place.

Anybody in their right frame of mind would settle for 5th place when you have a Mclaren in front of you and when you have just about 3 mm space to pull off your overtaking. But you see this rule applies only to humans. Not to Michael Schumacher! He simply threw his car into that 3 mm space- sandwiched between the Mclaren and the pit board wall. And he pulls it off! Kimi is left gaping at that piece of magic that was just performed on him by the man he was going to replace next season. And there you had it, simply put, the greatest overtaking move ever seen!

Probably it was the occasion, or probably it was because it was Ferrari vs Mclaren or probably because it was Schumi’s last overtaking move that anyone would ever see. But whatever be the opinion, “THAT move” simply epitomized Michael’s entire career. Fernando rightly said in the press conference that day that winning the championship with Michael competing you is something worthy and that the converse was also true. And he agreed that he had been extremely lucky that he could do it twice. Damn right!

But whatever be the opinions of all the people around the world, it is simply imperative to believe that F1 can never be the same without him. That someone will come first in a race simply because someone has to and that someone will win the world Championship simply because someone has to.

And in all that time, I can atleast be happy that someday I can proudly tell my children and grandchildren that I was there when Michael won his first title with Ferrari and I can proudly say that I was there when Michael pulled off “that move” over Kimi with 4 laps to go in his career.

There never was and will never be anybody like Michael Schumacher.

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