The Hungarian Grand Prix lived up to its reputation for being a boring circuit in terms of overtaking, but always delivering action of some sort. Hungaroring may be dull as a spectacle, but there is never a shortage of talking points.
This year’s was provided by Michael Schumacher. His already infamous move to push Rubens Barrichello towards the pit wall while both were travelling at top speeds was one of the most vicious I have ever seen. I was yelling while it was happening.
I think I will forever vividly remember watching the onboard shot from Rubens Barrichello’s car live. I was cheering him on as he lined up to overtake Michael Schumacher. Then I was horrified when I realised what Schumacher was doing.
Not that it is much of a surprise. It is well known that Michael Schumacher is capable more than anyone else of pulling a dirty move out of his lowest drawer. His famous tainted legacy: Why does driver who is so good — a seven time World Champion no less — feel the need to pull off these extreme moves.
In a way, what he did to Barrichello in Hungary this year was worse than anything we have seen from him before. When he crashed into Damon Hill in 1994 it was to win the championship. When he crashed into Jacques Villeneuve in 1997 it was a last-ditch attempt to win the championship. When he parked his car at Rascasse in 2006 he was a championship contender. This? A futile fight for 10th position in a nothing year for him.
By now everyone knows that 2010 has not been the comeback Michael Schumacher was hoping for. In his recent interviews he has stated that he is only interested in winning championships. Scrapping away in the midfield is not interesting to him. He doesn’t like racing; he is only interested in winning.
I have always felt that his wheel-to-wheel abilities are actually quite poor. Schumacher’s speed cannot be in doubt — when he is out in front. But when he is on the back foot, he switches into panic mode. All of his most notorious moves have been snap decisions that he has made in a moment when he has suddenly been put under pressure. He is a quick driver. Unfortunately this means he often makes a move before he has engaged his brain.
This is what we have seen this year. Not just in Hungary, but also in Canada. He noticeably struggled in Montreal. He had a scrappy race and made a few panic moves, including a chop across Felipe Massa.
Unfortunately, an uncompetitive Michael Schumacher is no less ruthless. If anything, he is worse when he is on the back foot. Is it really the done thing to desperately try to push someone into the pit wall for the sake of one point?
One perspective is that this is good, hard racing. I also liked the viewpoint put forward by Axis of Oversteer — that this is the manifestation of genuine bad blood between two drivers. Schumacher and Barrichello have a lot of history, and it’s easy to imagine that this was all in the minds of both drivers.
But full credit to Rubens Barrichello for completing the move. He showed great bravery on the track, and immense integrity off the track. Barrichello’s behaviour after the race was exemplary. Meanwhile, Michael Schumacher complained that Barrichello is a whiner.
It is said that at Spa in 1998, Michael Schumacher stormed up to David Coulthard and accused him of “trying to fucking kill me”. I think Barrichello had cause to do a lot more than merely “whine”.
Michael Schumacher knows that in order to be successful you have to be ruthless, and at times aggressive. He is by no means the only aggressive driver on the grid. Mark Webber stands out. In fact, Webber was involved in quite a similar incident at Fuji in 2008 with Felipe Massa. But in this instance, Webber’s move across the track was made much earlier, much more gradually, and he did not push Massa nearly as far.
As such, Webber is respected as an aggressive driver, but also one who speaks about on-track safety with authority. As major player in the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, Mark Webber has made it his business to care about safety. This is the beauty of Mark Webber — he pushes it, but he knows exactly where the limit is, then stops. The problem Schumacher has is that he doesn’t know where the line is drawn.
Michael Schumacher is a hugely successful driver that many look up to as a role model. I would hate to think that he finds these sorts of dangerous manoeuvres acceptable. I am surprised that he did not receive a disqualification. He should also have received at least a one race ban. I bet if, say, Vitaly Petrov tried the same thing, he’d be sitting out the next few races.
The next race is in Belgium — where Schumacher’s fans turn out in force. The race after that is Monza, where the fans have quite a few fond memories of Schumacher as well. I would hate to think it is the case, but you would almost think the powers-that-be had one eye on the purse strings and the PR value of having Schumacher continuing racing — even though he is a known danger.