Saturday August 29th, 2009 was the day every living Formula 1 fan uttered similar words: “Schumacher is coming back.”
After having been away from the cockpit for almost three years, Ferrari needed to make sure all Schumacher’s bolts and screws were still in place in time for the European Grand Prix in Valencia. He underwent several fitness tests (an intensive fitness regime shedding 3kg to get him to his weight at the 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix) – and as the whole world watched, while others purchased Spa tickets every minute – Schumacher announced his withdrawal. What was to be the most positive news of the year turned into the most heartbreaking.
“I was so disappointed when I discovered that he wasn’t coming back. It was an amazing story and every Formula 1 fan on the planet was waiting for this. Now the Messiah is no longer coming. It’s a big letdown,” 1978 F1 World Champion, Mario Andretti said, in an interview with F1 Racing.
The reason for Schumacher’s withdrawal was due to the continuous concern for his neck. In early February, he injured his neck while testing a German superbike.
We all know that the Formula 1 experience entails extreme forces on the body. If we were to ponder: Schumacher had approximately six months to heal the injuries sustained to his neck. Is that not enough time? Let’s say it wasn’t, giving him the benefit of the doubt, wouldn’t he have wanted to make sure of the status of his neck – eliminating all doubt – before announcing something to the world? You can’t help but think twice. Was he having doubts? Did he suddenly realize that he had nothing to gain and everything to lose?
Andretti added that he had no doubt that Schumacher would have been instantly on the pace, just as Andretti was when he made a Formula 1 comeback with Ferrari at the end of the 1982 season.
“His performance would have been stellar – if you look at his age and his fitness, he is still on top of his game.”
The aftereffects saw Luca di Montezemolo discuss the idea of running a third car for Schumacher in 2010 at selected races. Selected races? I can’t imagine how that would play out. Hopefully our hopes aren’t totally diminished – only slightly postponed to the year ahead. Schumacher would have been every non-F1 follower’s reason to tune in.