October 22, 2006: Schumacher’s last battle

There was a time when Formula 1 was no longer so fashionable. A time when drivers weren’t trendy, cars made noise, and there was no Netflix to romance and amplify rivalries. In 2006, Michael Schumacher is in the twilight of his career. His reign ended last year when a young Spaniard wrested the world crown from him after four seasons of undisputed dominance. Fernando Alonso dominates it again this year. The Renault is stronger and more reliable than the Ferrari. However, the German is resisting and would like to offer himself a title, one last, before he retires. At the end of an incandescent summer and a sublime victory at Monza, Schumacher announced his retirement. He has three races left to shine and get an eighth world championship.

For his last GP, the “red baron” arrives in Brazil with an almost impossible mission: to win the race and count on a big bad performance from Alonso (he doesn’t have to score any points). Mission all the more delicate as Schumacher, still betrayed by his car, starts in tenth position; his opponent is fourth.

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Schumacher’s race will be a “best” of a fifteen-year career: maximum risk-taking, plenty of overtaking, euphoric aggression… Not to mention mistakes and twists of fate. After a dizzying start to the ascent, he punctured following contact with Fisichella. Everything has to be redone. So Michael gets back on the track, accelerates hard, brakes late, overtakes skillfully, gets back up quickly and waits… But the race is not extensible. After 71 brilliant laps, Alonso is crowned world champion. Michael Schumacher fails to get on the podium. Its most beautiful trophy remains this struggle with unequal weapons – the Ferrari is less efficient than the Renault – and this firework of progress.

“Rusty”, Schumi?

“So today I finish my career. Of course, it’s a special time. I am proud to have been able to live with extraordinary people and all those people who are part of the Ferrari family. I could say a lot about them, but it’s very difficult to find the right words”, explains the seven-time world champion at the end of the race. The desire for one last lap is too strong.

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Three years after Interlagos, Schumacher is back. The “red baron” becomes a silver arrow: it must accompany Mercedes’ return to Formula 1. After glory, setbacks. The first two seasons are difficult. “Rusty” and disturbed by the new regulations, he is largely dominated by his teammate, the future world champion Nico Rosberg. Are you done, Schumi? It wasn’t until the European GP in Valencia in 2012 that he finally won a podium six years later. But the desire is no longer there. The German makes a mistake, is betrayed by the reliability of his single-seater and, whatever people say, tarnishes his legend. At 43, he announced his retirement and Mercedes decided to replace him with a speed nugget that will be talked about: Lewis Hamilton.

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Now he comes back to Brazil. The latter is like six years before: a bad classification, a puncture, a crazy comeback. He finished seventh, the same number of his world crowns. It will have offered a last stand of honor, a passing of arms and a relief to a new generation of talented but less rough drivers. His tragic accident in Méribel, a year later, erased this near-failed comeback to leave room for compassion and regret: not to see him behind the wheel again.

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