Saturday 11 January 2014

That Long Pending Handshake

The two magazines which I picked up from the store 
I must admit, I am concerned at the present state of condition Michael Schumacher is in. Each passing day, we hear news about his recovery or him being in coma; his battles off-the field and several pleas from his family to leave them alone in what is most distressing time for the Schumacher and his extended family.

I was holidaying with my wife at the time of the incident and it has been just two days since we are back to our routine. A lot has been written and said in the media about his health; I am not sure what to read and what to believe. I stopped reading.

We are back to our routine and part of that involves shopping for groceries or as a last minute rush, one buys a thing or two from the local shop next to the train station. I have always been amassed with the collection of magazines they have - reminds me of India and those multi-purpose stalls where magazines of all possible genre adorn the sides of those tiny shops. I could notice about ten magazines in a jiffy; all had Michael Schumacher on its cover. Each magazine had at least 4-5 pages of coverage on his health, family, opinions from several experts, encouraging messages and many more. It was in German and I browsed through all of them before buying these two magazines. 
Looking at them, I was transported back to the time when I started watching F1 and how a certain red car driven by Michael Schumacher got me hooked onto these fast cars of Formula One. I am trying to recollect all the memories that I have and how the idolism of Michael Schumacher made me fall in love with F1 - its history, evolution and just about everything associated with the sport.
A world made up of billions of people - it is interesting to note the kind of impact individuals tend to have on masses. There would be plenty who took to F1 because of Michael and if not seriously, at least the sport has benefitted with his presence for more than two decades. I would like to share some of them.

More than his victories, the two seasons with Ferrari towards the end of his first term in 2005 and 2006 was a lesson in itself - personally. There have been several instances where I was inspired by the way he handled personal and team setbacks in those two years; the manner in which he fought back reducing the deficit of 34 points in 2006 to zero before his engine blew in the penultimate race at Suzuka (for the record, his last engine failure prior to Suzuka 2006 was at French Grand Prix 2000). He lost the championship to Alonso, but went down fighting. Not to forget the way he came back from his leg injury in 1999 - after which he enjoyed the most successful phase of his career. 

By the time I was a corporate, Schumacher had retired and my first race live on track did not feature him. Till date, I have dreamt of that day where I would shake hands with Michael; sitting together at some place discussing Formula One and him having a look at my personal collection of his photographs pasted and others (from different magazines) I collected as a student. What a thrill it is for a fan when that day comes true!

In 2009, Geneva Auto show featured several cars and in that magnificent spread of trendy cars - there were few collections from the world of Formula One. In a corner there was a tiny F1 car (compared to today's standard size) with 7UP advertised all over it. It was the same car in which Michael Schumacher had made his debut with Jordan, back in 1991 at the Belgian Grand Prix - the only time he raced officially in that car. Boy, was I excited! 
Jordan Ford - Schumey's debut F1 car 
When Mercedes announced its intention to participate in the F1 arena as a constructor, Ross Brawn called out for Michael Schumacher. He immediately agreed and returned to the team where he began his racing career in the late 1980's.

In his second term at Mercedes, he put his laurels at stake for the sake of driving. He was contracted for three years and it yielded him no victories. The Chinese Grand Prix win in 2006 remains his last triumph. Did he ruin his legacy? For the sake of numbers, he did; for the joy of doing what he loves - hats off to him. Not many have the guts to pursue what one loves irrespective of what critics have to say. 

Personally, I would have loved to see him drive a competitive car; securing pole positions; shattering the time sheets with fastest laps; spraying champagne all over after winning the race. A lot of us didn't get to see that and I have no qualms about it.

Over the past decade and a half, I have read a lot of books written on him, absorbed a lot of words scribbled by various writers on varying aspects of his life - on and off track. Let's just say, he is no saint - but he is as human as anyone could be. Though heavily talented, he was prone to driving errors, learnt from his mistakes of the past, something we are all inclined to do - improved immensely and became the multiple world champion he is.

When he announced his retirement for the second time and for good this time, I was fortunate to be in India at that time. I did not hesitate once and immediately booked the tickets for the Indian Grand Prix 2012 along with the travel tickets. It was expensive, no doubt! every penny was worth it. After all, this was once in a lifetime experience I didn't want to miss.

At the circuit, all I could see was his car zooming past me during the practice sessions and qualifying; struggling on the race day. Amongst all this, I did manage to spot him sans the helmet and the racing gear, waving his hands - a sort of goodbye to all his fans on the driver's parade. 
Schumey waving at his fans - Driver's parade Indian GP 2012 
Schumacher in action at Indian Grand Prix 2012 
On a road trip last year, I convinced my wife to visit a small town in Germany called Kerpen. It is a small town about 30 km south-west of Cologne. All I wanted to do was experience the town from where the legend of Michael Schumacher began. 

Be it a local café or a Bäckerei - all knew their most favourite son. With our limited knowledge of Deutsch, we somehow managed to located his carting track - a haven for budding drivers. We walked around the circuit, scanned possibly every item in the memorabilia store and did not return empty-handed. 
Collage of Michael Schumacher's Kart Center at Kerpen
This is how close Michael Schumacher has been in my life. I have never met him personally till date and I continue to dream of that day when we finally get to meet. I am not sure of the timeline - but I am optimistically hopeful of this occurrence in the near future. If not more, at least that long pending handshake.

Till that time - I wish him a speedy recovery from the injury! 

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