Monday, October 23, 2006

Schumie's Last Stand

Seven time Formula One World Champion, Michael Schumacher could arguably be called the Greatest. He not only has the record seven championships, but also has ninety-one Gran Prix wins. And, for a little while, it looked as if he may end his career on top. He was three championship points ahead of reigning Champion Fernando Alonso with two races left in the season, and his career. Then disaster struck at the Japanese Gran Prix, when, while leading the race, his engine blew. That was strange, since the Ferrari engines are usually very sturdy and reliable.
One could say that it wasn't in the cards for Schumacher to retire with eight championships. Now, ten points behind the points leading Alonso, going into the Brazilian Gran Prix, Schumacher could still have won the championship if, 1: Alonso had to drop out of the race, for some reason, and 2: Schumacher won the race. After showing some excellent performance in practice and in the qualifying rounds, Schumie was almost a shoo-in for the pole, but, during the pole shoot-out round, disaster struck again when the hydraulic system for the #6 Ferrari's fuel pump failed. The car that should have been on the pole--it had been the fastest during the qualifying rounds--was doomed to start in the tenth position.
But Michael Schumacher, the Great One, was not about to go out with a whimper. Making some amazing passes in the first lap, he quickly worked his way up to fifth. Then, on lap eleven, his right rear tire* blew.
Having to limp around the circuit, pit, and repair, put him back in twentieth position. Again, with his unique and aggressive driving style, he picked off competitors one by one, passing inside when he could, and passing on the outside when there was absolutely no room inside. He was driving that car hard, and wheel hopping didn't seem to bother him--the Ferrari was bouncing, skidding, drifting, and sliding all the way around the Gran Prix course. Watching him, you have to feel, "that's what I'm talking about." You just know he is showing exactly why he is The Great One.
With three laps to go, Michael Schumacher has muscled his way to fifth place. Kimmi "The Iceman" Raikonnen, the man who will be in Schumacher's seat next year, is running in fourth. A battle for that position ensues, and it is racing of the kind rarely seen in Formula One racing of late. Raikonnen, a future champion in his own right, is not about to just let Schumie pass him. Schumacher goes right, and Raikonnen is already there. He goes left, and the Iceman blocks the way. Finally, headed into the front stretch at the end of the lap, Schumacher makes a move only he can make--in front of him is Raikonnen, and to his left is the guardrail. Seeing the slightest hint of daylight between the two, he deftly puts his car into the space where there is barely any space, and successfully passes without wrecking. It is the amazing ability of Schumacher that convinces us that he deserves to be known as one of the greatest racers of all time.
He finished in the fourth position, and Alonso, finishing second, took the championship. Schumacher's teammate, Brazilian driver Philippi Massa, won the race at his home track, giving Ferrari the constructor's championship. Schumacher didn't even make the podium.
But that didn't matter. Schumacher's final race before retirement showed us why he is the Great One, because we got to watch him make some of his greatest moves. It will be etched in our memories.

*Remember, in NASCAR it's "tire," in Formula One it's "tyre." Both mean the same thing.

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