Michael Schumacher - end of second coming

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 11, 2012 10:12 hrs

Michael Schumacher would have seen it coming with the Paddock abuzz with rumours about the 'big shift' - Hamilton moving from McLaren to Mercedes - for a few months now. At 43, his retirement, this time for good, was hardly a surprise given that though he consistently managed top-10 finishes, he had just one podium in some 50-plus starts over three seasons. So, I suppose, his time was up.

If anything, Schumi is probably one of the most discussed F1 drivers in recent times with an endless debate raging whether or not he could be spoken of in same breath as two other modern-day legends, Prost and the late Senna. Statistically, you cannot question Schumi's spot at the very top of the pile, but that is only one side of the coin.

On one side, there have been questions, some of them quite justified, about the tactics employed by Schumi and his teams. Suspicions over the two World championships with Benetton in the mid-90s, Jerez, Monte Carlo and more recently, two rear-ending incidents cast a long shadow over his career. However, there shouldn't be questions over his wins with Ferrari, a struggling team that he helped regain its pristine glory with five back-to-back titles.

After yielding ground to a new generation of drivers like Alonso in the mid-2000, Schumi realised that he had overstayed his welcome in F1 and rightly decided to retire. However, as it often happens with great champions, Schumi must have realised he had nothing to look forward to in life beyond racing, a doting family man though he was.

After all, there is only so much time you can spend at home and for someone who with nearly two decades of racing in his veins, it was but natural that Schumi walked out of the closet wearing the fireproof overalls. Though the discerning questioned his return to racing after a three-season break, his legion of fans simply refused to buy the argument that Schumi was past his prime.

The fact was that in the hi-tech world of F1 where time is measured in fractions, three years is a long time. Schumi would have realised soon as he went racing that he was anything but on pace on a consistent basis. Even his team-mate Rosberg was quicker and that the new bunch of young drivers some of whom were still in their cribs when Schumi had begun racing, were not about to move over just because there was a seven-time champion on the grid.

Thus, it was like starting from scratch for Schumi though had another legend and his long-time comrade in arms since the Benetton days, Ross Brawn in his corner. Yet, the pair could not recreate the magic of the past as it became increasingly clear that a consistent top-10 finish did not equate to success.

In June this year, Schumi finally achieved his first podium (European GP) since his return, but that counted for little in the big picture that was about his continuing inability to deliver strong results on a consistent basis. Some experts blamed the car while others thought there was not much that Schumi could do as he was ready for the pasture.

Whatever, the point was that Schumi on his day showed us that he could be still counted among the current set of top drivers. This season alone, despite finishing only eight of 15 starts, all but once he failed to secure a point. It only meant that the fire within was still burning, but a combination of other factors, such as age, race-edge and car reliability, weighed him down.

Perhaps, few of us are qualified to make a definitive statement or judgment over Schumi's decisions. However, one cannot ignore the fact that his retirement announcement came after Mercedes signed up Hamilton, a move that finally confirmed that there was no seat for Schumi.

Whatever the case may be, for me, Schumi has a permanent berth in the pantheon of racing champions. I wouldn't get into a debate whether he is the greatest of them all, but certainly, he is one among them. To think otherwise is to scoff at his achievements that I doubt will ever be equaled, much less bettered. Adios, Schumi!

Closer home, the West Indies provided some good news by winning the T20 World Cup and it is good for the game that the Caribbean cricket is on its way up, something that will only embellish the sport.

One couldn't help but turn nostalgic watching the Windies celebrate in typical fashion that reflected the cricketing ethos of the region. It is to be hoped then that under Sammy, the West Indies will do as well in other formats, especially the Tests. Cricket needs them much more than the officials may care to admit.

More from Sify: