Juan Manuel Fangio will always be regarded as a maestro, but Michael Schumacher now reigns supreme, writes CAR deputy editor John Bentley.

Even Michael Schumacher’s critics now have to concede one thing: after winning his sixth title, the man is now the most successful driver in the history of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Juan Manuel Fangio will always be regarded as a maestro, but Schumi now reigns supreme. Six world titles and 70 victories are the statistics. All the rest is simply bar-room speculation…


That said, Schumi did show he was human in the final race of 2003, seemingly doing his best to throw it all away as he battled to recover from the lowly grid position forced on him by a late rain squall during qualifying. “I was really messy today,” he confessed in a post-race interview.


Michael’s loss of cool at Suzuka helped put Juan Pablo Montoya’s jitters at Indianapolis into perspective: this year’s title battle has been a high-pressure affair that has tested the nerves of even the most phlegmatic of the participants. Undoubtedly the Colombian will be back, a stronger and wiser competitor.


And so will Kimi Räikkönen, the man who needed to win the final race to have any chance of the crown. His post-race assessment was typically matter-of-fact. “The car just didn’t have the speed in it,” he said. “But at least we didn’t lose it by bad driving…” A touch arrogant, perhaps, but just the kind of focus one needs to win at this level.


Three-time world champion Jackie Stewart has commented that Michael should quit now, while he’s ahead, just as Fangio did early in 1958. But Montoya, Räikkönen and that other future champion, Fernando Alonso, can be pleased that the new record-holder isn’t planning to call it a day just yet. So they all still have a chance of unseating the champion of champions… – John Bentley