THE NEW SCHUMI
“I guess I have been a pioneer for the generation that races today,” said Schumacher in an interview recorded before his skiing accident in 2013. “A lot of drivers didn’t understand that it was not only about talent. It was about working with your team, maximising not only your own potential but maximising the car and the team’s potential. Then you push things to the absolute limit and overshoot it. That’s racing. This is something I see now with the young generation: they are much more prepared; the competition has gone to a higher level – and, in a way, I’m proud of this.”
There are echoes of Schumacher’s traits in many of the drivers on today’s Formula 1 grid. Between 2001 and 2003, Schumacher’s consistency in races led to him finishing 24 grands prix in the points – a record that has since been eclipsed by Kimi Räikkönen over 2012-2013 (27 consecutive points finishes) and Lewis Hamilton from 2016 to this year (33).
Schumacher’s attention to detail is mirrored by the high standards Fernando Alonso displays, while we see signs of his ruthless competitiveness on-track in some of the exciting, combative driving of Verstappen. But if there is one driver who exudes all the qualities that Schumacher demonstrated in his years in Formula 1, it is Sebastian Vettel. Here is a man who keeps his PR appearances to an absolute minimum, does not engage in any social media, and keeps his family and private life firmly behind closed doors. There are no distractions from his intense focus on F1.
“Vettel has taken Michael Schumacher’s blueprint and is the current embodiment of him,” agrees former F1 racer Anthony Davidson. “He looked at how Michael approached F1 and he’s doing exactly the same. He’s one of the hardest-working drivers on the grid and has that same relentless quest for performance that Michael had, which in any sport is going to make the difference these days.”
“Sebastian was very close to Michael, socially and professionally. They spent a lot of time together and I think he was one of the closest witnesses of the approach that Michael took,” says Ross Brawn. “Sebastian strikes me as someone who is very self-motivated and who looks at every aspect to improve his performance.”
Like Schumacher before him, Vettel had been incredibly successful at one team, but wanted to prove himself elsewhere. What could be better than to follow in his idol’s footsteps and achieve similar success with Ferrari – the ultimate goal for any grand prix driver? For when Vettel speaks of Michael, it’s clear that he is the inspiration for his success.“he was my hero. I used to have posters on the wall of him,” says Vettel. “For me, he is the best driver we have ever had in terms of talent, skills, passion and willpower. Put all those things together and, as a driver, you will be the strongest package. He will be remembered as the best driver in history. “When somebody asks me what connects me to Michael, obviously it goes back a long time. I met Michael for the first time when I was seven. Then, later, I got to know him as a person and he was always there for me, with a word of advice or some help. I think he was uncontested both in terms of talent and his attitude to sport, the devotion, the work, the will, always to give more than anyone else. Of course I wish him the very best and hope that he will continue to fight the battle and come back some time. I miss his opinion, his advice, his expertise.” So too does Formula 1.
“SOMETHING I SEE NOW WITH THE YOUNG GENERATION: THEY ARE MUCH MORE PREPARED; THE COMPETITION HAS GONE TO A HIGHER LEVEL – AND IN A WAY, I’M PROUD OF THIS” MICHAEL SCHUMACHER
A young Sebastian Vettel meets Michael Schumacher, his hero and the inspiration for his own racing career