Joe-Pinions: Sports

1 May 2014 – My Personal Top 10 F1 Drivers (# 3)

Posted in Auto Racing, Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 01/05/2014

First off, it’s been a terribly long time since I last wrote anything in this blog.  A full year and one hundred and ten days, in point of fact.

The truth is, I’ve been quite busy.  I’ve been contributing to a tech website on a regular basis as a reviewer/editor, working on a still-evolving novella-length piece of fan fiction, and rediscovering a love for music and songwriting that had lain dormant for a decade or so.

Now that I’ve mentioned that, 1 1/3 years doesn’t seem too long, does it?

But I’ve digressed.

It’s time to continue this, my list of my top ten favorite F1 drivers.

I’ll admit something:  This list might need a little bit of revision, especially towards the rear of the pack.  During the last few years I’ve grown to admire some current F1 drivers enough to think that they might warrant inclusion in this list.  I think that it’s inevitable that a list like this would get revised.  I mean, I’m sure that every fan has a similar hierarchy of performers that he or she may hold dear, and that new names get added to that list all the time.

For now, though, this is how this version of the list stacks up:

10.  Nigel Mansell

9.  Jean Alesi

8.  Gilles Villeneuve

7.  Nelson Piquet

6.  Damon Hill

5.  Sir Jackie Stewart

4.  Jim Clark

We are now in the most hallowed portion of this gathering of F1 greats.  The top three finishers of any grand prix are, after all, feted on a podium of glory.

And so, my # 3 favorite F1 driver is:

3.  Ayrton Senna

Every single year, at around this time, I feel more emotional than usual about Formula 1.  Long-time fans of the sport will probably understand why, even without prompting.

Twenty years ago today, Formula 1 – indeed, all of motorsport – lost possibly its most charismatic participant ever when Senna’s Williams FW-16 smashed into the concrete wall on the outside of the mighty Tamburello corner at the Circuito Enzo e Dino Ferrari  at Imola in Northern Italy.

Even today, twenty years after his death, the name Senna is still as evocative as ever.  In some ways, the passage of time has only burnished his legend even further.  A similar thing happened to James Dean, to Princess Diana, to John Lennon; the phenomenon has also happened in F1, to Jim Clark and to Gilles Villeneuve, just to name two.

But Senna’s star appears to be inextinguishable.

Ask F1 fans today to name their all-time favorite driver, and chances are they’ll say “Ayrton Senna.”  Ask racing drivers today the same thing, and many will name him too.

Ayrton Senna's iconic bright yellow helmet:  Simple and powerful

Ayrton Senna’s iconic bright yellow helmet: Simple and powerful

To be honest, it almost feels somehow wrong if you think differently.

There’s no question that Ayrton Senna was a driver of immense talent.  His contemporaries all hailed him, almost to a man, as the fastest, most gifted driver on the grid.  I mean, how else can you conclude differently when he demolished the record for career pole positions, setting it at a stupefying 65 (almost doubling the previous record of 33 set by Jim Clark) from 162 races?  What else can you say about the man who was second in the all-time grand prix winners list at 41 victories at the time fate intervened at Tamburello?  Also, only a very select few have won as many as three World Championships.

However, I think it would be terribly boring to talk about Ayrton Senna and have the conversation boil down to a recitation of mere statistics.  As much as they are some measure of the man’s achievements in the top echelon of motorsport, Senna is far more interesting as a person.  And the biggest reason why Senna is so interesting is because he was just so imperfect.

Nigel Roebuck, who remains my favorite writer of all things Formula 1, once wrote that Senna is “a flawed genius.”  Personally, I cannot come up with a more correct description.  While most people only seem to remember Ayrton Senna as the transcendent talent and warrior on the race track that he undoubtedly was, I think that his untimely death also made too many people forget his various imperfections.

Alain Prost, Senna’s only rival, once told Roebuck that he felt uncomfortable talking about Senna.  Prost said during that magazine interview (and I’m paraphrasing here) that it’s impossible for him to talk about Senna because he (Prost) simply can’t win:  If he talks about Senna’s virtues, then Prost looks like a hypocrite.  Where were these platitudes when the man was alive?  Where was this appreciation when their rivalry was at its hottest and most hostile?  Yet if Prost aired his grievances, then he comes off looking like the ultimate complainer (which some in the press already see him as anyway), attacking a dead man incapable of defending his own reputation.  It’s really very easy to sympathize with Prost’s position.

But fans who still remember the sport pre-Senna would fully understand why Roebuck (and Prost, obviously) thinks that Senna, for all his brilliance and talent, was not the pristine exemplar of what’s best in motor racing.  Old school fans might appreciate the man’s abilities, but those of us who have a fertile-enough imagination for consequences for certain types of behavior maintain a reluctance to forgive certain transgressions.

Even before his arrival in F1, Senna (he was known as Ayrton Senna da Silva back in those days, incorporating both his parents’ surnames) was already establishing a reputation for ruthlessness, a penchant for intimidation, that truly has no place in an activity as potentially mortally dangerous as motor racing, especially when we’re talking about open-wheeled cars.  In Formula Ford and in British Formula 3, Senna had a reputation (especially amongst the track marshals, whose opinions of drivers and their behaviors, are the most serious and valid, in my opinion) for being far too aggressive than appropriate.  Again, Roebuck says it best:  In his Grand Prix Greats, Roebuck wrote that Senna had a “let me through, or we crash” attitude when it came to overtaking a rival (again, I’m paraphrasing).  In other words, Senna always relied upon his rival’s giving way whenever he attempted an overtaking maneuver.  Resistance was futile, and often it was destructive.

Just ask Martin Brundle, perhaps the most famous of Senna’s pre-F1 victims.  The two had a major contretemps at the Oulton Park circuit in British F3 whilst dicing for the race lead.  The two were battling for the series championship that year, and after dominating the early part of that season, Senna felt increasingly desperate as Brundle cut into his points lead.

Just watch what happens when Brundle resists Senna’s attempt to pass (Brundle is in the blue and yellow Ralt, with Senna in the white Ralt) (their incident starts at the 1:06 mark) :

The immediate aftermath of the accident looked a bit horrific at first blush:  Senna’s car was literally on top of Brundle’s, mere inches from Brundle’s head.  How Martin Brundle escaped this crash uninjured is a mystery, but this was but one example of Ayrton’s unyielding aggression and seeming lack of imagination might have ended up in a bigger disaster.  For sure, though, the fact that Senna’s Ralt had become a surprise headrest for Martin Brundle is the sort of thing that should have deterred Ayrton from similar stunts in the future.

Ayrton, though, was never officially sanctioned for this incident.  It’s purely my opinion that escaping censure for this kind of ultra-aggressive behavior in the lower formulae may have given Senna the proverbial green light to continue conducting his racing in a similar way once he broke into Formula 1.  Lots of drivers ran afoul of Senna’s uncompromising style:  Keke Rosberg at the Nurburgring in 1984, Nigel Mansell (several times, including a wild affair at Spa-Francorchamps in 1987 and a near-disaster at Estoril in 1989), even Michael Schumacher (France 1992, South Africa and Brazil the following season).

Of course, his innumerable run-ins with his rival Alain Prost are the ones that stick hardest in most people’s minds.  It’s useless to recount every single time these two true Formula 1 Titans crossed each other’s path; inevitably, grands prix became a race between just the two of them.  This is especially true about the 1988 season, when the two of them won fifteen out of the sixteen races with their indomitable McLaren-Honda MP4/4s.

Perhaps it was inevitable, but having the two best drivers in the same team was a ticking time bomb; it’s just impossible to have two alpha males in the pack.  Each one would want to assert his own dominance, and fratricide was probably unavoidable.  But their two years together at McLaren wasn’t always hostile.  1988 was a fairly harmonious year.  Indeed, aside from Prost’s occasional unhappiness with Senna’s sometimes brutal racecraft (his aggressive overtake lapping Prost into Woodcote at a sodden British Grand Prix stands out as a clear example – another unnecessary display of “move over, or we crash”), the two conducted themselves as professionals with an obvious mutual respect.

The Portuguese Grand Prix that year, though, revealed the first fissures in their relationship.  These hairline cracks would later escalate to earthquake faults that would ultimately destroy their relationship, however temporarily.  The 1988 GP of Portugal actually had three starts, with the first two being aborted.  At the original start, Prost jumped Senna and, perhaps fed up with all the times Senna had tried to intimidate him, edged Ayrton towards the outside of Turn 1.  It’s hard stuff, but entirely fair.  Indeed, Senna himself was known to do the same (and even worse) to other rivals.  Because of another driver stalling on the grid, the officials called for a second standing start, which itself was also marred by another stall, this time resulting in a multi-car accident.  The third start proved the charm, though, and Senna jumped Prost for the lead.  Beginning the second racing lap, though, Prost, who had a stronger car that day, moved to the inside on the long Estoril pit straight attempting to overtake.  Senna violently pushed his teammate towards the pit wall, causing the pit crews to raise their pit boards out of fear that Prost’s car or helmet might clobber them.  Post-race, after he had won the Portuguese GP, Prost did not bother to hide his anger for his teammate’s tactics.  He said, “If he (Senna) wants to win the world championship that badly (that he would risk an almighty accident – with a teammate!), he can have it.”

In intra-team discussions post-race, Senna complained that Prost had done him hard by edging him onto the grass at the first corner.  Prost, though, pointed out that it was a fair tactic; this point is beyond dispute.  The guy in front, after all, always has the line.  Senna himself has used this defense, both before and after this particular incident.  But Senna’s response at the third start was over the top.  You simply do not squeeze rivals into a wall or barrier.  That kind of maneuver just has far too much potential for a true disaster.  Anybody who would defend tactics like this clearly has a bankrupt imagination; anybody who might argue the validity or rightness of “defending track position” in this manner simply doesn’t understand how lethal something like that can be if these drivers touch wheels going down a circuit’s longest straight.

Ayrton Senna in his McLaren-Honda MP4/6, at Monaco.  He won this most prestigious of Grands Prix a record six times.

Ayrton Senna in his McLaren-Honda MP4/6, at Monaco. He won this most prestigious of Grands Prix a record six times.

The relationship, though, completely disintegrated less than a year later.  At Imola, at the restart after Berger’s fiery crash at Tamburello, Senna violated a pact that he himself proposed to Prost:  He overtook Alain going into the Tosa hairpin despite an agreement between both McLaren drivers that neither shall attempt to overtake his teammate at the start.  Senna justified his pass on Prost was legal because, technically, it wasn’t the start; it was the restart.  Engaging in semantic fencing like this reveals Senna’s hunger for victory as well as his utter ruthlessness.  Nothing, not even a pact that he himself initiated with a teammate, would stand in his quest for victory.

Many people admire that about Senna; I, on the other hand, have a very difficult time stomaching such a Machiavellian approach.  Victory at all costs, even at the cost of ethics, goes beyond the realm of sport.  Indeed, Prost said that racing to Senna went beyond sport; racing for Senna was nothing short of warfare.  To me, this is a distorted way of looking at racing.  Even war is governed by rules, after all.  But the way Senna approached his racing (or, at least his racing against one specific rival), the rules were only valid if they applied only to his advantage.

This was never more true than the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, when he simply rammed Prost off the track entering a fast fourth-gear corner at the start of the race.  The arguments will rage forever between those who, like the producers of the Senna “documentary” (I refuse to recognize this film as a documentary because of the liberties it took – not once was Senna ever portrayed as a human being with faults or a capacity to misjudge), see Ayrton as an inviolate deity-like figure, and those who will never forget nor forgive all that he had done to damage the sport.  I remain steadfast in my stance that intimidation and a willingness to cause an accident with a rival whose crime is to be ahead of Ayrton Senna have no place in any form of racing.  I am sure that people who would argue that Senna was justified to crash into Prost because of what happened the year before at the same track, albeit at the Casio chicane.  Like James Hunt did at the time, I will always believe that Senna was in the wrong in that incident as well.  As Senna himself said many times, the guy in front (Prost) had the line; it is always the man overtaking the man in front who has to make sure they don’t collide.

Senna fans will, in all likelihood, crucify me for committing the heresy of criticizing their idol.  But nothing I’ve said is untrue; all you have to do is revisit history by re-watching footage and reading all of the accounts written during Senna’s entire career.  I’ve watched most of Senna’s races, either live or on video, and I’ve read so many writers’ work from that time.  He wasn’t short on critics back then, especially among the part of the audience who could still remember the days when (or appreciate the fact that) racing was an eminently dangerous way to spend one’s time.  And this is all the more true in Formula 1.

Ayrton Senna

Ayrton sitting in his McLaren-Honda MP4/5, wearing his trademark mask of intense concentration. This might be my favorite photo of the great man.

In all honesty, Ayrton Senna makes me feel a huge conflict.  On the one hand, there is no escaping his shadow.  While I obviously do not subscribe to the groupthink that Ayrton Senna was the greatest and most talented F1 driver of them all, there is no disputing his place amongst the giants of the sport.  His achievements alone guarantee his place in the Mt. Olympus equivalent of F1 greats.  The style and panache with which he practiced the art of driving a racing car is unique unto Senna; like Muhammad Ali, he is an original.  Unfortunately, his portfolio, while full of masterpieces and glory, is also filled with ignominy and infamy.  I can never forgive Senna for Japan 1990.  I say this primarily because of the damage done to the sport.  No one like to see a truly epic clash for the world championship settled in such a cynical manner.  Everyone who saw that race felt cheated out of the right way to achieve the result.

At the end of the day, you see, it should still matter how you win.  Racing is sport, not warfare.  The ends shouldn’t always justify the means.  And Senna’s flaws are just too grotesque to ignore, at least for someone who remembers them from when he committed such sins.  No amount of hyperbolic appreciation of his greatness – greatness at his level shouldn’t be so subject to so much hyperbole anyway – can make me forget.  And that is the greatest tragedy of Ayrton Senna, really:  He was just too good to have to rely on such a Machiavellian approach to his racing.

 

 

14 Feb 2012 – My Personal Top 10 F1 Drivers (# 6)

Posted in Auto Racing, Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 14/02/2012

Today we’ll be looking at the driver occupying the sixth spot in my personal top 10 F1 drivers list.  But before we proceed further, if you want to review which drivers took spots 10 thru 7, read these posts:

10. Nigel Mansell

9. Jean Alesi

 8. Gilles Villeneuve

7. Nelson Piquet

And now, we resume our countdown with one of motorsports’ true gentlemen.

6.  Damon Hill

He was never the most talented.

Never the fastest.

Never regarded as an all-time great.

You know what, though?  All these things are true enough, but they don’t matter.  Not to me.

Damon Hill's helmet livery: A modern interpretation of his father Graham's famous colors

Damon Hill…  what can you say about him that would merit a place on any top 10 list that has him just one spot shy of its top half?  How can I rate Damon Hill higher than Nelson Piquet, arguably an all-time great?  Higher than the legendary Gilles Villeneuve?

I’ll say it now, then.

I really liked Damon Hill.  For a short time, he occupied the void left when my old favorites from the 1980s-early 1990s had all gone from the sport.  He bridged the gap between the two drivers who occupy the #1 and #2 spots in my personal countdown.

Though Damon, son of 2-time F1 World Champion Graham Hill, won twenty-two Grands Prix and one Drivers’ World Championship, for most of his career he occupied the position of underdog.  It’s true that most of his successes were achieved whilst driving an Adrian Newey-designed Williams-Renault, undoubtedly the best car-engine combination for most of the 1990s.  Given that he had such great equipment to work with, how could Damon be an underdog?

I suppose that that’s a bit of an absurd assertion.  However, I think that things aren’t as simple as they might appear.  For one thing, it’s all too easy to forget the narrative behind all the stats and facts.

Damon started his path onto motorsports quite late.  In fact, he didn’t even start his racing career on four wheels!  Instead, Damon Hill started racing motorbikes at age 23.  To put that into some kind of context, by that age both Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel had already been an F1 World Champion.  To really hammer the point home, Spanish hotshoe Jaime Alguersuari has already had almost three complete seasons in F1 at age 21!

At his mother’s urging, Hill swapped his bike racing leathers for a Nomex car racing suit in 1983.  For the next few years, Hill won races and pole positions in various junior formulae.  However, he never managed to win a championship at any level.

Consequently, Damon never attracted any truly serious interest from any of the big Formula 1 outfits.  No team wanted to take a gamble on him to fill their racing vacancies.

In 1991, however, Williams Grand Prix decided to hire Damon as their test driver.  Through the 1991 racing season he split his time testing and developing the various electronic gizmos on the Williams-Renault.  Based on just how awesome the FW14B turned out to be, with its all-singing-and-dancing active suspension, its now bulletproof semi-automatic transmission, and traction control system, you could say Hill was a superb tester.

The following year, Hill continued testing for Williams.  However, he also finally had his proper Grand Prix debut, taking over Giovanna Amati‘s seat at Brabham.  Sadly, Brabham was by then a pathetic shell of its former self.  To his credit, however, Hill did manage to qualify the ridiculously poor BT60B for two races, the British and Hungarian GPs.

When Nigel Mansell decided to “retire” from F1 at the end of the 1992 season, a vacancy at Williams opened up.  After many weeks of uncertainty, Frank Williams decided to fill the empty race seat with Damon Hill.  It was the most logical decision, given Hill’s familiarity with both the Williams team’s methodologies and the car the team was going to race in 1993, the Renault-powered FW15C.

1993 was a successful year for Damon.  In what was essentially his true rookie year in F1, he managed to win a hat trick of races (Hungary, Belgium and Italy), take a few pole positions, and finish third in the final World Championship standings (behind Ayrton Senna and the 1993 World Champion, teammate Alain Prost).  He deferred to his teammate in the early part of the year, but came on ever stronger as the season progressed.  He would have had a higher points total at the end of the year but for two heartbreaking car failures at the British and German Grands Prix, his Williams blowing an engine and suffering a race-ending puncture in successive races.  He did demonstrate the full extent of the Williams-Renault FW15C’s potential by racing into 3rd place in Portugal after being forced to start at the very rear of the grid due to stalling prior to the first formation lap.

It says much about Damon that his 1993 teammate, Prost, thought very highly of him.  The four-time world champion credited Hill for helping him understand the FW15C, particularly its innovative technological features (aside from inheriting the FW14B’s full complement of gadgetry, the FW15C also added anti-lock brakes and optimized aerodynamics).  Prost thanked his 1993 teammate, as well as praising him for some truly great performances during their time together (particularly in Great Britain, Belgium, and Portugal) and for being a true gentleman.

The following year, of course, was one of F1’s (and auto racing’s) most traumatic and horrifying seasons ever.  At the outset, nobody, of course, could have known just how awful the year was going to be.  Hill, though, probably thought that he was going to be in for a tough time anyway.  Prost retired, and Ayrton Senna slotted in to take his place at Williams.  To paraphrase what an F1 journalist said at the time, going from Prost to Senna was a bit like graduating high school and entering into university.

Not surprisingly, Hill never out-qualified Senna, the acknowledged master of the art of qualifying in Formula 1.  Nevertheless, by virtue of Senna’s inability to bring his Williams home in the first two grands prix, he led Senna on points, 6-0 (he finished 2nd in the season-opening Brazilian Grand Prix).  By everyone’s reckoning, Senna’s own included, the third race, the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, would be where Senna would finally launch himself into the championship standings.

It never happened that way, of course.  Senna was killed on the seventh lap of the San Marino Grand Prix, and Damon Hill, with barely a year’s worth of F1 racing under his belt, found himself in the unlikely position as Williams’ team leader.

Much like his father Graham did with Lotus in the wake of Jimmy Clark‘s own fatal accident, Damon Hill galvanized the Williams team.  With amazing dignity, grit, and determination, he helped keep Williams together in the face of unspeakable horror.  His admittedly lucky victory in Spain was the second race since Senna’s fatal accident, but the sight of Williams personnel weeping not in grief but in relief and joy, spoke volumes.  Few grand prix victories were as emotional as that first Williams win after Senna’s death.

With the mantle of Williams team leadership now firmly on his shoulders, he challenged Michael Schumacher.  In terms of talent, Damon was unquestionably Schumacher’s inferior; however, Damon’s talents as a test driver came to the fore as the year progressed, helping transform what had been a very difficult machine into a finely-honed race winner.  Not only that, but Hill also possessed, if not a champion’s raw talent, a true champion’s will.  He ignored all the distractions and kept his eye on the target.  Nowhere was this demonstrated more clearly than at the Japanese Grand Prix.  Run in torrential conditions, Hill managed to beat Schumacher by 3.3 seconds by the end of the disjointed race.  Furthermore, by beating Schumacher in Japan, Hill closed the points gap to a solitary point.

More than any other race he would ever run, the 1994 Japanese Grand Prix stands out as the race that makes me think of Damon Hill.  Grit, determination, the obstinate refusal to bow to a superior opponent when the circumstances gave him every excuse to simply give  in…  these are the elements in Damon Hill the racing champion that I came to love and appreciate.

At the next race, the 1994 season’s final grand prix at Adelaide, Australia, Hill pressured Schumacher into a mistake.  Unfortunately for Hill, Schumacher drove his Benetton into Hill’s FW16 and broke the Williams’ left-front suspension.  The “accident” ended the chase for the championship (I will never believe that Schumacher lost control of his car at the precise moment when Hill was alongside and clearly going to overtake; Schumacher barged into the Williams with full and malicious intent and absolutely no regard for any consequences).  In the pits, Hill maintained his dignity, vocalizing not his private disappointment or anger at being taken out of the championship, but of his sadness and disappointment at not winning the championship for Frank Williams, the team, and Ayrton Senna.

I became a firm fan of Damon’s with that display of class and dignity, rare as it sadly is (and continues to become) not just in Formula 1, but in all of sports.

And so I followed Damon’s F1 career with great interest, cheering for his successes and lamenting whenever he made the inevitable mistake of judgment or when fortune simply did not smile upon him.  I cringed in 1995 when he crashed into his great rival Michael Schumacher not once, but twice, that year in badly-misjudged overtaking maneuvers.  I wept inwardly when he lost the 1997 Hungarian Grand Prix on the final lap after leading easily for the last third of the race in an Arrows-Yamaha that almost routinely ran at the back end of the grid.  Of course, I nearly wept from the joy of seeing him ascend to the top of the podium as the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix winner, taking the Jordan Grand Prix team’s maiden win as well as his final victory.

Damon Hill, a champion and a gentleman

But perhaps I was happiest for Damon when he won the 1996 Formula 1 Drivers’ World Championship.  After a largely disappointing 1995 campaign marked by a certain desperation in his driving, a season-long attempt to match a superior rival now driving a car with equal horsepower, Hill bounced back and took the following year’s championship (Schumacher’s Benettons were previously powered by Ford; starting in 1995, however, Renault ceased to supply Williams exclusively and provided their superb engines to Benetton as well).  While critics would say (correctly) that his greatest rival’s challenge was blunted somewhat by moving over from Benetton to Ferrari, one could argue that Hill’s 1996 season was tougher than ever since he was now challenged by a dangerous rival within the same team.  A driver’s most lethal challenger will always be the other fellow in the sister car, since he provides the most direct comparison (that is, assuming the team provided equally-good cars to both drivers; you can’t ever say that during Michael Schumacher’s time with Ferrari, in my opinion).  Jacques Villeneuve, son of Gilles (and himself a future F1 World Champion) replaced David Coulthard at Williams in 1996 and had a brilliant rookie campaign, but Hill’s superior experience and familiarity with the team and the car added up to outscoring the brilliant French-Canadian by almost twenty points at season’s end.

Damon Hill was never ever the fastest or most stylish of Grand Prix drivers, but he nevertheless captured my F1 fan’s heart by being one of the sport’s true gentlemen.  He won 22 grands prix and took 20 pole positions, great numbers for a driver not recognized as a one of the sport’s great talents.  Critics would (all-too correctly) say that Damon needed to have a great car in order to get those results.

But it’s all too easy to underestimate Damon and not give him his just due.  After all, it’s not enough to just have a great car under you.  You still have to get in and drive the thing and get to the checkered flag before everyone else to get those results.  And Hill was almost always teamed up with drivers who weren’t exactly slouches (1997, his one year with Arrows, saw him teamed up with then-novice Pedro Diniz, who himself proved to be a bit underrated in his latter years); even against an all-time great such as Prost, Hill could still win the odd race (or three, in ’93).

Hill won all his battles with an admirable dignity and class, qualities which are lamentably in such short supply these days.  It’s all too easy to cheer on the most obviously talented participants, but talent alone is not enough for me.

Character counts for a lot, and in this way Damon Hill will always be a champion amongst so many pretenders.

1 Aug 2010 – Grand Prix of Hungary Reaction (early)

Posted in Formula 1 by txtmstrjoe on 01/08/2010

I’m still quite incensed over the move that that piece of garbage Michael Schumacher pulled on ex-teammate Rubens Barrichello.

If you don’t know what happened, here it is:  

In my opinion, that is nothing short of criminal.  That is nowhere close to a legitimate defensive maneuver, especially in ultra high-speed open-wheeled racing cars.  You must have a serious lack of imagination if you, for any reason, believe that squeezing a competitor into the pit wall like that is above board.

What continues to baffle me, though, is how there are still people who admire this piece of shit Schumacher.  I don’t know how anyone can defend and justify behavior like that.  And it’s not like it’s a one-off for him.  It’s just the latest example of a pattern of behavior, one of his defining signatures as a racing driver.

Some people say nobody criticized Ayrton Senna because he was guilty of doing the same thing.  Well, guess what.  People like Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost criticized him; people like Nigel Roebuck criticized Senna.  Ask all my friends:  I criticized Senna for pulling that same kind of shit, called him a hypocrite for proclaiming how devout his religious beliefs were while he performed maneuvers like Estoril 1988 and Japan 1990.  I’ve been a fan of Formula One for at least a decade before Schumacher started his career in 1991, and I’ve never changed my tune all these years insofar as just how bad the standard of ethics and sporting values have become ever since Senna’s time as the leader of the pack.  People have criticized Senna, and people have criticized Schumacher.  The trouble is, nobody listened when they did, or they got shouted down for defending common sense and an appreciation for sporting values.

The governing body in charge of Formula One also bears some responsibility, since they partially legitimized Senna’s old tactics as well as Schumacher’s copying of them.  If they had sanctioned Senna all those years ago, who knows, maybe drivers would never have believed that such dangerous tactics were legitimate.  By not sanctioning Senna for his tactics (prior to Japan 1989, when he actually was sanctioned, even if I think Prost had at least some responsibility for what happened at the chicane at Suzuka), an entire generation of drivers grew up thinking that squeezing a competitor into the pit wall at racing speed is a legitimate tactic.  In effect, the FISA/FIA acted in the role of enablers to Senna and his successors.

I apologize if I offended anybody for using such harsh language in describing Michael Schumacher.  If anything, language, even foul, seems inadequate to express my loathing for the man and his behavior on a racetrack.  If you are an admirer of his, I have nothing more to say to you.

I cannot reach the intentionally blind and deaf, I think.

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