Every once in a while we have a reader who likes to put pen to paper or fingers to plastic and hammer out an Op Ed piece. This month we offer a tribute to Schumacher via our friend Paul Kiefer. These are his thoughts on the retirement of a champion and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of F1B ~ Editor
The end of an era has come. We say goodbye to one Michael Schumacher, born January 3rd, 1969, who made his home in Kerpen, Germany before moving to Switzerland. We acknowledge his accomplishments as a seven-time world champion, a feat that may never be approached for decades. We acknowledge the honors that he had achieved in his life. A pair of curves at the old northern portion of the Nurburgring were renamed after him: The “Schumacher S”. He was named one of the “Champions of Sport” by UNESCO. He was awarded the FIA Gold Medal for Motorsport for his efforts in driver safety.
Yet, for all these achievements, we also recognize where he came up short. The accidents he caused were well documented, as were the penalties and the one time where a driver was disqualified from an entire championship. The infamous “Schumacher Chop” that would not leave an opponent any room and force them off the track. The occasional accusations from Schumacher that a driver was attempting to murder him in the race. Finally, the day of his retirement, when he was believed to be forced out of racing, but stayed on with Ferrari as advisor, trainer and developer of cars, even coming back one time to substitute for an injured Felipe Massa.
For all these things, Michael Schumacher was hailed as second only to Ayrton Senna, but it wasn’t enough. Schumacher himself believed that he retired too early, that there was too much to do. His competitive spirit had not been quenched. So it was that Schumacher returned to the racetrack, this time under the banner of Mercedes AMG.
Was he expected to pick up right where he left off? We’re not certain, but we do know this: In the years that he drove for them, he wasn’t doing as well as before. Three years he spent toiling for Mercedes, and never quite a sniff at a race win. Sure, he had his sympathizers, and that was understandable. However, that didn’t discount the fact that he had started to falter.
So, why was he racing again? Should he have stayed retired? I say no. The competitive fire was still inside Schumacher’s blood, and it needed to be quenched. But life had a lesson for him. It was a cruel one, but it was necessary. This was the one thing that all those wins could not give to him. All the confidence in the world couldn’t give it to him. All the penalties couldn’t give it to him. All the dangerous maneuvers couldn’t give it to him. All the honors in the world couldn’t give it to him. In the end, One thing, and one thing only, could teach the important lesson that Schumacher needed to make his life complete.
Schumacher had to learn how to lose. For most of his career, he was a winner. His seven world championships attest to that fact. The one thing that Schumacher didn’t know was how to lose. This, he has stated, was something that he learned. However, it wasn’t just learning how to lose. It was learning how to lose gracefully, with dignity. Learning how to be humble was the last lesson that life had to give. This is the one true thing that you could learn from losing.
Before those three years, Michael Schumacher was still a boy, brash and young, not quite so mature. Today, those last three years turned Michael Schumacher into a man by teaching him how to be humble, and we have all benefitted for it. Congratulations, Michael. You are now truly a man, ready to face the world. Good luck and happy trails.