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Schumacher: I would change Jerez '97 if I could...
Tue, 10 Nov 18:40:18 2009
Ask Schumacher - Shell Motorsport
Michael Schumacher has confessed that if he could have his record-breaking F1 career over again, he would ‚Äėdo some things differently‚Äô ‚Äď most notably the highly controversial manner in which he tried and failed to snatch the 1997 drivers‚Äô crown from Williams rival Jacques Villeneuve in the European Grand Prix finale.
Schumacher and Villeneuve went into the race at Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain separated by just a single point in the former‚Äôs favour ‚Äď essentially setting up a winner-takes-all scenario. At the start, Schumacher got the jump on pole-sitter Villeneuve ‚Äď with the duo having set identical lap times during qualifying, in company with the second Williams entry of Heinz-Harald Frentzen ‚Äď and led all the way until lap 48, when the French-Canadian went for a move down the inside into the Dry Sac corner.
Schumacher turned in, causing the two cars to collide ‚Äď but it was the Ferrari that ended up beached in the gravel trap and out of the race, enabling Villeneuve to continue on in a damaged car to take the chequered flag third...and with it championship glory, the first and only time the son of the legendary Gilles Villeneuve would lift the ultimate laurels. For what was widely regarded to have been a deliberate attempt to remove his adversary from the fray and secure the title for himself, Schumacher was largely vilified afterwards in the global media, and the incident was one of a number that left a permanent stain on an otherwise glittering career.
‚ÄúWhat could I change in my career?‚ÄĚ he mused in response to a question during a special Shell Q&A. ‚ÄúI have some moments that if I could have them again, yes I would do them differently ‚Äď probably 1997 in Jerez. I would have had a couple of opportunities to avoid all this and still win the championship, but you take your lessons and you learn from them.‚ÄĚ
Another lesson Schumacher has learned of late ‚Äď and a painful one at that, both literally and metaphorically ‚Äď is that as he gets older, his bones and injuries take longer to heal, following a motorcycling fall at Cartagena in Spain back in February that ended up precluding a famous F1 comeback in-place of Felipe Massa this summer as his neck was still not fully healed.
Admitting that the reaction from fans when it was announced that he would be returning to competition after more than two years away from the fray had taken him totally by surprise, the 91-time grand prix-winner again stressed that it would be wise never to say never ‚Äď even if his words seemed to hint that, now incredibly into his fifth decade, the moment for rejoining the grid had now sadly been and gone.
‚ÄúThe response from all the fans came as a huge surprise,‚ÄĚ he acknowledged. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm thankful for that, because it really gave me something very special. I really appreciate it, and I felt very proud because it came as a result of a long-term relationship and a lot of emotions that we have shared together.
‚ÄúWhy did I stop in 2006? The simple matter was I was tired ‚Äď I didn‚Äôt have the energy to continue and I didn‚Äôt feel there was any point. I didn‚Äôt regret it; I thought it was absolutely the right decision. I‚Äôve enjoyed what I‚Äôve been doing since and I hope I will continue to enjoy it in the future.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs lots of talk about me returning to Formula 1. I was very close obviously this year to replacing Felipe, but whether I‚Äôm going to race in the future or not, we will see. Definitely it was a big disappointment not to be able to come back this year for Felipe; that was the main reason, because I was just giving a hand to the team who had found themselves in exceptional circumstances. Driving the 2007 car really felt like driving it ‚Äď it didn‚Äôt take me very long to drive the car on the edge, which was something I enjoyed after being out for so long. It didn‚Äôt take me long to feel good and come back.
‚ÄúI felt I was possibly ready, but obviously there was the neck issue and it emerged that I wasn‚Äôt [ready]. I regret obviously to have fallen in February, but sometimes life writes the story and you have to deal with your destiny. I still love motorbikes; I haven‚Äôt raced one since, but we‚Äôll see what happens in the future. I guess my neck by the end of the year or beginning of next year will be fully fine, but I will be 41 ‚Äď and that would make me the granddad of F1! I‚Äôm not sure I want that...‚ÄĚ
Explaining that he is enjoying the private life and freedom that no longer racing has afforded him, Schumacher also all-but ruled out owning or running his own team ‚Äď something that is ‚Äėnot on the agenda‚Äô, he assures, notwithstanding his ongoing ‚Äėlove and passion‚Äô for the sport ‚Äď and revealed that if it was up to him, Macau would be a fixture on the annual F1 calendar.
He also offered his views on the new 2010 regulations ‚Äď ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs difficult to predict what is going to be the outcome and how it‚Äôs going to change the sport,‚ÄĚ he muses. ‚ÄúYes, to drive a heavy car will be difficult at the beginning of the race and you will have less strategic windows where you can change position, but equally it‚Äôs the same for everybody‚ÄĚ ‚Äď and reminisced about his very first grand prix triumph, for Benetton and at only his 18th attempt in the 1992 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
‚ÄúIt was an exciting race following Martin Brundle, seeing his tyres falling to pieces, and deciding myself that it was the right time to come into the pits,‚ÄĚ the seven-time F1 World Champion recalled. ‚ÄúMy crew reacted fantastically to change my tyres and get me out again. To suddenly find myself in a winning position with my opponents not getting any closer, I was really thrilled ‚Äď and finally crossing that line and securing the victory was one of the great moments of my career.