Schumacher the best ever?
Michael Schumacher is a great driver. He's the best there is and probably among the best there ever were!
But is he the best there ever was?!
If all you hear are the fawning paeans sung in his praise by lakhs of Johnny-come-latelies who call themselves F1 fanatics, you'd be convinced that indeed, Schumi is the greatest Formula One driver that ever walked this planet.
At least the author of this article on Rediff.com, Raja Sen, seems to think so.
It's just that a certain man has taken it unto his tremendously able hands to do just that: The Impossible. Michael Schumacher, it cannot be argued, produces miracles - full-blooded crimson spectacles of incredible prestidigitation - at will. He smiled from the top step of the podium yet again, with the customary wink comfortably in place, and this was a man enjoying himself thoroughly. Shrugging off the plaudits as the incredulous journalists jostled for query-room, he smirked: "No risk, no fun." That statement sums a lot up for the Ferrari driver, who is now basking in the thrill of the greatest competition he has ever had to face: Himself.sic!
I'd much rather listen to the views of my best friend, Saurabh, who is, in my opinion, the biggest F1 fan I have ever come across. The reason... his impeccable credentials to comment on Formula One...
Die hard fans like me, who have followed Formula - 1 (F-1) since 1984 (a whopping 20 years) have seen the evolving and diminishing careers of greats like Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Jean Alesi, Gerhard Berger, Mika Hakkinen, Juan Pablo Montoya, Fernando Alonso, Mark Webber and Kimi Raikonnen. These drivers have evolved F-1 into the sport it is today.I have no doubt Schumi is a terrific driver. But his fans continue make the mistake of running down other greats in trying to glorify a driver who is great, but not quite the greatest. Raja Sen writes...
Contrary to popular belief, he has faced a few competitors in his time. Senna, Hill, Villeneuve, Irvine, Hakkinen, Montoya, Raikonnen, Alonso. He beat them all. Hard, hammering defeat into their skulls with monotonous consistency. A couple took the upper hand, but then were beaten, and bowed out after the ignominy of repeated defeat dulled the luster of their momentary crowns. Now, Michael competes with himself: which is to say that he pushes himself harder than ever to race better than ever. His benchmark is his glorious past, and the resultant bar is so high that the great Fangio himself would think twice before attempting it, and possibly even retreat to a nice plate of cannelloni.Such disrespect for drivers whom you've never seen driving! Sen shows his immaturity by clubbing Senna and Fangio in the same bracket as Irvine, Alonso and Villeneuve. For anyone who claims to be a F1 fan, this is an insult to their intelligence!! Furthermore, Sen comments about the nature of F1...
There are people, I am sure, who found the French Grand Prix boring. I feel sorry for these folk, and earnestly suggest they switch [recently-developed, obviously] allegiance to less-cerebral sports such as one of the brutishly vulgar American racing leagues. Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport, has always been about battles inside the brains - a plethora of brilliant thinkers are to be credited for each race win, and it is to see the machinations of these superlative thinkers that we live, and should be thankful. The greatest drivers of their eras have not necessarily been the fastest, but the ones most precise, the ones able to outthink. Which is why Prost always had the indubitable edge in his legendary rivalry with the Brazilian.But people fail to realize how much (or rather, how little) effort today's drivers have to put in while driving a F1 car. Saurabh explains...
From no re-fuelling, no pit stop strategy, racing slicks with different widths for front and rear tires, single tire manufacturer, no ABS, no traction control, no launch control, no automatic and semi automatic gearboxes, F-1 is vastly different than what it has been a decade ago. Older F-1 drivers had to wrestle the car to stay on track while changing gears fighting to keep a 1300 bhp turbo-charged monster under control. (Today’s F-1 cars are a measly 900 bhp). ‘Manhandling’ these mean machines was a tiring effort and drivers used to collapse from sheer exhaustion after a race was completed.Add to this, the vastly superior use of telemetry and other electronics that make up the car nowadays and you have a driver who has to do nothing other than floor the accelerator and follow the instructions from the team paddock to the 'T'. Where then, is the 'thinking' that Raja Sen seems to credit Schumacher with, required?! By his own admission, the troika of Brawn, Todt and Schumacher are the executors of the strategies... strategies that are honed to perfection with the use of the immense computing power at the disposal of super-rich teams like Ferrari.
F-1 drivers these days hardly have to do anything other than yawn while in the car. The in-car footage shows the drivers hardly moving the steering. It looks like my grand mother serenely driving along. As Niki Lauda remarked in 2003, even a monkey can drive a modern formula 1 car.
Saurabh posts more arguments showing how Schumacher has been molly-coddled by FIA and the stewards over the years. Reading them makes you realize that Schumi has feet of clay after all.
In any case, Raja Sen glorifies the car at the expense of the driver's abilities and dilutes his arguments in favour of Schumi as the greatest driver ever. Saurabh, however, finishes off his arguments gracefully... acknowledging Schumi's greatness while quietly asserting Senna's genius.
I hold Michael Schumacher in very high esteem but I am not a fan. I just think that he is a very lucky racer. His ship sails smooth while his opponents frequently run into rough weather and end up a beached whales. His timing, right from his appearance in F-1 was impeccable. He has a strong personality. He is the rightful heir to Senna’s throne.How I wish that on May 1, 1994 at Imola, the suspension arm from a front wheel of a Williams car had missed the visor of the famous yellow helmet!
No doubt, that Schumacher is the best of today’s crop of racers. However, he is simply not the best there ever was. Personally, I think Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark and Ayrton Senna were the best there ever were.