Vettel, Alonso shed light on sunset of Schumacher’s career

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As the Formula One series sits poised to end the season this Sunday and crown another champion, the Interlagos Circuit in Brazil will also play host the final race in the storied career of Michael Schumacher. The 7-time World Champion will officially retire from F1, again, and this time it’s final. As the championship is at a fevered pitch with 13 points separating Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, the two drivers took time out in Thursday’s press conference to pay respect to the legendary Schumacher. For Vettel, a fellow German who grew up racing on Schumacher’s Karting track, it’s personal:

“He was a true inspiration back then to me and many other kids in Kerpen. He was our hero and obviously we had the honour to meet him.

“He was taking care of the championship in Kerpen and came to the last race and presented all the trophies to every child – more than 100 at the time. So he was very patient and obviously I now understand the busy schedule he had, taking that extra time for the fans, especially for us, the kids racing, was something very special and a very special memory.”

For Fernando Alonso, it’s professional as the two battled hard in 2006 for the title with Alonso taking the spoils:

“I think we will always remember the privilege to race and compete with someone like Michael who will be record [holder] in history of Formula 1 maybe for a very long time,” Alonso said.

“We’ve been there, on the grid close to him, having some good fights and great respect on the circuit and always constantly learning with someone that changed a little bit this sport.”

Schumacher has fans and detractors but there is no question that his presence in Formula 1 has redefined the sport and impacted nearly every record in the book. As Sky sports F1 sums up:

  • Starts: 305
  • Seasons competed: 19
  • Championships: Seven
  • Wins: 91
  • Poles: 68
  • Podiums: 155
  • Fastest laps: 77
  • Points: 1,560
  • Teams: Jordan, Benetton, Ferrari, Mercedes

An incredible achievement by anyone’s measure and all of this achieved in cars not designed by Adrian Newey. According to today’s jaundiced eye of Vettel’s accomplishments, having an Adrian Newey car contributes to much of the success the German has had and this notion also marginalizes the skills this young protege of Schumacher really has. This notion must also suggest, then, that Mika Hakkinen, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill all must be short of skills and benefitting from a Newey-designed car which skews what their talent actually was.

I personally don’t subscribe to the “Vettel is only good because he’s in a Newey car” as I believe the 2-time champion is a product of the Schumacher impact on F1 and having grown up in the system that also delivered Schumacher to the top step of the podium, the skills are there and it must be quite an emotional time to ply those skills with your childhood hero on the same track as you.

I had to opportunity to say hello to Schumacher in Austin and having watched his entire career, I can say that it has been without a doubt a terrific 19 seasons. He is a singular driver amongst the sport’s most cherished and I wish him the very best in all his future endeavors.

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