Michael Schumacher demonstrated in Austria that he has an exceptional ability that helps him turn near-disaster into victory, writes CAR deputy editor John Bentley.
Many of Michael Schumacher’s detractors describe him as a lucky driver. Good fortune, not skill, they rationalise, has been the dominant factor in his 67 victories and five world championships.
But they’re missing something: it’s the man’s exceptional ability that helps him turn near-disaster into victory. With Michael, it all looks so easy, so undramatic, that those witnessing it all tend to lose track of the seriousness of the original situation.
Schumacher demonstrated his uncanny genius for recovery twice in Austria. First, in qualifying when, after losing valuable tenths when the Ferrari got sideways on a track strewn with dust from the “offs” of the cars that had run before, he did the seemingly impossible, recovering to snatch pole.
And then in the race, which saw him fight back to win after losing something like 12 seconds and having to leave the pits short-fuelled as a result of the flash fire during his first pit stop.
David Coulthard and other Schumi critics say his Achilles heel is that he makes mistakes under pressure. He certainly does, but probably a lot less than other acknowledged Formula One greats.
On Sunday, seeing Schumacher sitting calmly in the cockpit while the flames flared up at his left shoulder, one marvelled at his sheer presence of mind. Jackie Stewart once explained that he coped with the rapid decision-making required during racing by “slowing time down” in his own mind. Schumacher almost made time stand still.
There’s an old motor sport adage that says: “You make your own luck”. Schumacher has his share of good fortune, but it comes from within. And he has a knack of turning bad breaks into good that is unprecedented in F1 history. – John Bentley