This is not an easy blog to write. I’ve must have rewritten the opening lines about a dozen times in my head today and even now I’m not entirely sure what I am going to say.
The blog I was going to write today was a season review for 2013. A sort of F1 Oscars if you like. Best Driver, Best Race, Best Drive, Lifetime Achievement Award. I started writing it a couple of weeks ago but hadn’t got round to finishing it as the craziness of Christmas took over. And then two days ago I heard the terrible news that Michael Schumacher had been in a skiing accident. A very good friend thoughtfully tweeted me guessing (rightly) I would be frantic. At first (admittedly there were various conflicting reports) we heard it wasn’t too serious. Then as the hours passed the world was told that Schumacher was in a critical condition and in an induced coma following brain surgery. In a further press conference today (New Year’s Eve) his doctors said there has been some slight improvement but the situation remains critical and he is not out of danger.
To be honest I am still in a state of shock along with all other F1 fans and it still feels very surreal. Another reminder that life is extremely fragile. David Coulthard wrote a very honest and moving piece in the Telegraph today. Oddly enough (as they never actually battled each other for the title) they had more run-ins than you would expect. Yet at the end of the 2006 season when Michael retired for the first time, he approached DC and suggested they swap helmets. That previously unknown little anecdote tells us a lot about Schumacher. Ruthless and compromising on the track but a hugely generous, loyal and compassionate person off of it.
His philanthropic work is not often talked of by the media (partly as over the years it didn’t fit with some of the UK media’s agenda and partly because the Schumachers are intensely private). Aside from being a special ambassador to UNESCO for many years, he donated around $10 million to aid efforts for victims of the tsunami in 2005 as well as millions to the Clinton Foundation and financially supported numerous other projects with a particular focus on initiatives to help under-privileged children. In the era of the celebrity and the quest for publicity and self-aggrandisement, it is heart-warming to know there are people as successful and famous as Michael who choose to give back. He really is one of life’s good guys.
Not too surprisingly given its inherently dangerous edge, F1 has more than most sports known tragedy. Different generations of fans have lost their heroes. From Jim Clark (my father’s all time favourite driver) to Ronnie Peterson to Gilles Villeneuve and so many other gifted drivers. Many have remarked on the cruel twist of fate of Schumacher defying death in various crashes and flat-out racing over his long career only to be gravely injured while skiing one year following his retirement. Yet F1 has precedent for this as well. Within 4 months after retiring from F1, Graham Hill was tragically killed when a light aircraft he was piloting crashed. Damon Hill lost his father that day, then lost his team-mate, Ayrton Senna, at Imola nearly 20 years later and now his great rival, Michael, is fighting for his life.
Somehow it doesn’t seem appropriate to do a full on season review. No problem with those who can but my mind is all a bit too scrambled to think about F1 properly. Admittedly it wasn’t a vintage season especially after the utterly brilliant and nerve-wracking 2012 season which doesn’t help. But for those who are vaguely interested, here is the run-down of those Oscars I had mapped out in my head already.
Driver of the Year
1. Vettel, 2. Alonso 3. Rosberg
Team of the Year
1. Red Bull, 2. Mercedes, 3. Marussia
Race of the Year
1. British GP, 2. Brazilian GP, 3. Hungarian GP
The Ayrton Senna Award for the Best Qualifying Performance of the Year
1. Hamilton – British GP, 2. Vettel – Brazilian GP, 3. Rosberg – Monaco GP
Quote of the Year
“Multi 21, Seb! Multi 21” – Mark Webber to Sebastian Vettel after Vettel defied team orders to pass him to win the Malaysian Grand Prix. Also winner of The Most Controversial Moment of the Year.
Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Ross Brawn. His departure from Mercedes is a huge loss for the team. Big shoes for Paddy Lowe to fill…big shoes.
And finally, this paragraph below was to be the start of my season review. Seems so daft now but I think quite poignant in its own way.
The other night, I dreamt I went to pre-season testing. Bizarrely it was at Long Beach in California which a) shows my age and b) shows how much I need a hot weather holiday. I sat and watched pre-season testing in the inestimable company of Michael Schumacher. As you do. One of the many things that made this season so utterly uninspiring was the departure of Schumi. Again. For me, the 2007 season was similarly flat though when I look back at least Raikkonen won the title for Ferrari (which beats an excruciating Vettel borefest hands down). Though actually that was partly the problem. Raikkonen was driving a Schumacher car and winning a title that Michael should have (and probably would have) won. Next year however I am beyond excited at seeing Kimi back at Ferrari. This time round I can really enjoy it having finally reached a place of acceptance that Michael no longer drives for Ferrari.
All we can do now is pray (or just hope a lot – if praying isn’t your thing) that Schumi pulls through and makes a strong recovery.
So there we are. Almost done for 2013. Thanks so much to everyone who does read the blog and follows me. One of the best things about blogging is getting to know so many fantastic F1 fans on Twitter who support each other in good and bad times (like recently). One of my New Year’s resolutions to blog more often and another one is to go to an actual race for the first time in years (looks hard at the husband and reminds him of our 10th wedding anniversary NEXT YEAR!).
Happy New Year!