Michael Schumacher is one of those drivers that Formula 1 fans either love or don’t, the German legend splits opinions to this day, which his friend and former colleague, Ross Brawn attributes to people not fully understanding the sporting legend.
The 91-time Grand Prix winner’s exploits on track are well documented, embossed onto the fabric that weaves the cloth of F1 history. As much as his triumphs are celebrated, his mastery of the dark arts of racing took the craft to a completely new level.
Win at all costs, bugger the consequences was the ethos of a time when Red ruled the Grand Prix roost for five years of never-before-seen dominance, only usurped currently with Mercedes cleaning up relentlessly for the past decade.
Over the years, Brawn worked closely with Schumi, first at Benetton, then at Maranello before reuniting later to spearhead Mercedes’ return to the top flight. They are tight, but the Englishman is aware of the lack of universal approval that should go with the legacy.
“He was a pretty misunderstood character,” ventured Brawn during an interview in Sky’s Race to Perfection documentary series. “I don’t know if in his own mind he quite enjoyed the sort of impression he created because he was quite an intimidating character in many ways.
“But if you knew him personally he was quite the opposite, very engaging, very personal. So many times I introduced him to people who, before they met him, thought he was a despicable, horrible character and once they got to know him they completely changed.
“I had that happen so many times because there was Michael the racing driver out on the track and there was Michael the human being away from the track.
“Lots of people who raced against him had a different opinion but nobody I know who ever worked with Michael ever had a bad word to say about him, a bad opinion about him because of his integrity, his commitment, his human side.
“He was a very strong team member of any team he was part of and it’s a tragedy what’s happened but he’s a lovely human being,” added Brawn of the seven-time F1 World Champion.
Schumacher’s shenanigans on track are the stuff of legend, starting with the title-winning punt on Damon Hill during the season deciding 1994 Australian Grand Prix, to parking at Rascasse during qualifying for the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix through to nearly driving Rubens Barrichello into the wall while battling at the 2010 Hungarian Grand Prix and everything in-between.
Before him, Ayrton Senna ripped up the rules of engagement, that had existed between drivers, prior to him bursting on to the F1 scene; perhaps those shenanigans were witnessed by a young Schumi before he stepped up into the top flight, grabbing the baton from the Brazilian as he took it all to the next level.