Does Formula1 need Michael Schumacher?

Michael Schumacher has quit Formula1, again. And for the second time in his career, he was probably forced to do so. This means that the 2012 Formula1 season will indeed be the last time this German god will blaze the race tracks!

Does Formula1 need Schumacher? This has been one of my most favourite topics to write on so here I go again!

Schumacher’s return to the sport was in 2010. Back then, Formula1 did need a Schumacher to stir up the interest levels in the sport. Don’t quite agree? Here’s my view.

Post his first retirement in 2006 and till 2010, Formula1 barely had any role models or starry drivers to look up to. Vettel and Red Bull Racing were yet to win their first world title. Hamilton was still a new-comer and had won his first and only world title by a really narrow margin. Button had just won the title with Brawn but it was only when he moved to Mclaren did he win fans in the market. As for Alonso, he always had a love-hate relationship with fans after his infamous Singapore episode in 2008 followed by his spat with Mclaren the next year. The Spaniard too had only just moved to Ferrari, his third team in three seasons. And Raikkonen after a championship and a lackluster year with Ferrari was rallying away somewhere! Of course, back then Twitter too had a little role to play to get F1 drivers closer to their fans!

Michael Schumacher (Courtesy: Mercedes AMG)

Barrichello, Webber, Massa are good drivers, but not the best names to sway hordes of fans towards the sport. Those seasons, we didn’t even have the DRS wing which has apparently pleased fans by upping the overtaking and hence entertainment quotient!

My point is – back in 2010 the sport needed a star driver to bring the interest levels back. And who better than a 7 times World Champion to make a comeback and fight it out with kids half his age! Great PR stories for all invovled – the sport, Mercedes and Schumacher himself!

However, switch to 2012 and I ask the same question! Does Formula1 in 2012 need a Schumacher?

We now have the ‘Baby Schumi’ out to defend his world title this year and Red Bull Racing is a team delivering consistent performances at the front. Alonso has won more hearts this season than he ever has after his spirited drives in the Ferrari. Hamilton’s pace has been unmatchable this year and Button has been the most personable driver in the Paddock in the last few seasons. And of course, there is more interest in ice creams since Raikkonen’s return to the sport this year.

Also, barring Raikkonen and Vettel, the other World Champions have used Twitter very effectively (much to the shock of their PR machinery) to bridge the gap between themselves and their fans, something that the fans have never experienced before.

And we’ve had new talent like Perez, Di Resta and Hulkenberg come up the ranks and in consideration by the top teams. The point I am making is that Formula1 has found new stars in the last three years and hence it probably doesn’t need the services of the star who singlehandedly drove the fans to and away from the sport in the 2000s.

I am a staunch Schumacher fan and would never like to see him retire, however, I somewhere believe that hanging his boots this year is the right decision. While I do feel that he will join Mercedes in a consultant’s role, could we see him walk away into oblivion and disappear from the sport that once treated him as the lead hero and dropped him twice as a body double?

For me, Schumacher will always be the greatest of them all and the one for all the current and future Formula1 stars to beat.
Read latest posts on my Formula1 blog on Narain Karthikeyan, Indian Grand Prix and my Formula1 Podcasts recorded with RJ Rishi Kapoor.
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Kunal Shah is an FIA-accredited Formula 1 journalist who has been reporting on Formula 1 for nearly two decades. He worked with the Force India Formula 1 Team for 6 seasons in Marketing, Sponsorship and Commercial roles. As a former single-seater racer, he was responsible for Force India's grassroots talent program, One from a Billion Hunt. Presently, he co-writes a regular Formula 1 column for Firstpost, speaks on Inside Line F1 Podcast & Pits to Podium and produces broadcast/OTT content for NENT Group (Viasport & Viaplay).

11 comments On Does Formula1 need Michael Schumacher?

  • Sport fans always love cheering for the underdog. Back when Schumacher came back to F1, everyone (myself included) wanted him to win Abe show the kids that’s how it’s done. Unfortunately that never happened. So yes,i agree that F1 no longer needs the great Schumacher.

  • I thing Schumi can not be always in F1.

  • First there are winners then come consistent winners then the legends, only once in a lifetime you come across someone who grows out beyond the above to be a Demi God.
    I guess the time has come for MS to move on. I still believe that his poor performance was only because of a poor car. Give him a comeptitive car and Vettel would bite the dust. 2000s was an amazing era for F1. I would really like the current drivers to deliver
    1995 (MS 16pos – to – 1pos)
    1996 (Spanish GP “Schumacher recovered from a poor start to take the lead from Villeneuve on lap 13, and from then on he dominated the race, lapping over three seconds a lap faster than the remainder of the field” He actually lapped the entire field upto third place)
    1997 (Monaco GP – Won the race by a 53 sec margin from Barichello in 2nd place)
    These are some of the countless victories…it gives me goose flesh each time I see the races.
    I really dont want him to continue the cars suck!!!!
    I am truly indebted and gratefull to God for MS being a part of my lifetime.

  • Retire with grace.(Period)
    I guess his second attempt itself is unnecessary, but i can understand the adrenaline rush one gets driving that incredible machine – you know in general once you are used to a certain lifestyle you can never go one step down, all you do is, thrive to get back or get better. So perhaps, he had the urge but 4 things were not with him this time around:
    1)A decent car
    4)Vettel’s determination (i.e shutting yourself from the world – no twitter, no socializing, no girlfriend in the paddock, no gossip, no nothing) – He is a built Robot.
    Also, the way Shumi let Vettel pass by in the last few races kinda proved that he has NO FIRE in him. As always, “You perform or you perish” in F1.

    • Hmm, well, slight disagreement. He didn’t lack passion or desire or determination. He did lack a good car, period. And perform or perish is the norm, but had he a good car, he would have performed. And the term that you’re looking to describe Vettel is ‘Schumacheresque’.
      The only difference between the two Schumachers we’ve seen is in the mindset. The first one wanted to achieve on all counts and win at any cost. Second one came around to have fun, see if he could match the young drivers and if he could help turn around Mercedes. Barring the latter, I feel he achieved all else.

  • ‘Schumacheresque’ – Interesting invention, I will try to use this word in a generic context!!
    As you described in paragraph no. 2, in the second attempt he only had fun or tried to have one, this way he ripped the fans of the built heroism i.e. the go-getter who toned down to a do-gooder(I’m talking abt he helping Vettel pass by with no fight). That is not fair!!
    I will correlate this scenario to our current politics. Our Govt’s first term was a good one, but in the second term there were too many issues(I won’t even get into details), so the amount of people who liked, trusted & voted for the govt in second term were in for a shock – that is because things were taken not so seriously, lethargic, we-know-the-turf-already attitude, so see the price the govt & the people are paying.
    In one sentence, what i’m trying to say is – “You jump into action only when you are well prepared and very sure” that is it.
    BTB, just because I’m critical of him doesn’t mean that I’m not a fan of Schumi, because I’m.

    • Haha, I figure you’re a fan. Get your view, agree partially. Him letting Vettel pass was only to let him closer to his World title by gaining a points advantage.
      Having played sport, there are times when you plainly and simply want to – have fun! That’s what he was doing.
      And honestly, too pissed off with the Govt. so didn’t read much of your comparison! 😉

  • I’m gonna go Zen here & say – To each his own 🙂 😉

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