Schumacher’s Legacy: Legend? or just a cheat like Armstrong?

After no news yesterday, it appears one of the big stories of today has been penned by a photographer. Some say all publicity is good publicity and Darren Heath, F1 Photographer – and now part time mud slinging journo biographer – certainly gets a tick for making waves. Darren writes off the career of Michael Schumacher who many consider F1’s greatest driver in a few paragraphs as just a cheat.

Let me say first up – everyone is entitled to their opinion and for that Darren Heath cannot be criticised. What we can critique is a writer’s presentation of the facts, deductive reasoning and I for one feel that a writer should be very careful about which analogies they use for comparative purposes.

The link is at the bottom to Darren’s article and one more matter for the record, I was no Schumacher fan during his career proper. Further, the absolute dominance of the Ferrari years meant my previous F1 obsession during was at times reduced to a passing interest, so I have no vested interest in defending the 7 times world champion.

Late last night I was checking out the twitter feed on #f1 to see if soothsayer Eddie Jordan was to be proved correct and news of Lewis’ signing was actual breaking when I saw tweets praising Darren Heath’s critique of Michael Schumacher. I read his piece and it left me cold.

Some have criticised Darren for jumping on the bandwagon following Michael’s crash into Verne on Sunday; but for commenting on that incident we can have no gripe. It happened; it’s a story and should therefore receive comment.

Let me outline my beef with Heath’s piece. He links Schumacher and Armstrong as the ultimate cheat champions of their respective sports. I suggest his comparison and arguments are facile and plain stupid. Both careers are consigned to the trash can as unworthy.

Lance Armstrong was a performance enhancing drugs cheat. He appeared to be one thing to the world and was in fact the converse. Lance presented as the greatest cycling champion of all time; 7 times a world champion, a man of supreme endurance prowess, of ultimate dedication and absolute commitment to the sport he loved. He was none of these. His deeds were done in the dark and no-one knew – he did what he did with the intention to deceive us all.

Darren begins his piece by dismissing Schumacher’s record since he came out of retirement, “1 podium and 1 pole”, fair comment Darren, he must be rubbish. But Michael has been driving for a team who are at best 4th if not 5th in the field. His teammate in that time has won 1 race in 3 years and this year Schumacher has proved he is no ‘has been’ as he is competing favourably with a team mate 17 years his junior – who by the way many people rate highly and were he to get into a competitive car he would have more than 1 GP win.

On the f1fanatic forum (A place I love for fans interaction), @85q sums up the matter more succinctly than I could when he says, and

“He [Darren Heath] totally misses the fact that of recent Michael has been on par or ahead of Rosberg He totally forgets the first 6 races of the season when Schumi was regularly running in top 3 places before something broke; forgets the great battles with Seb and Kimi at spa and the coolness of his performance Valencia. Yet this guy talks about him like he can’t drive.”

Darren next asserts, “In the paddock it’s a fact that – rightly or wrongly – many believe Schumacher has rarely raced in a ‘legal’ F1 car.”

Maybe it is said in the nether regions of the press paddock Darren, but this claim is firstly unproven as fact and from my experience of the many F1 people I know, none at all would consider Michael “rarely raced in a ‘legal’ car”. It could be just Darren’s tabloid style, but the nigh on absolute nature of this statement is clearly ridiculous. So absurd is this statement, that even Kelvin Mackenzie would seriously consider not publishing it.

We then get a list of teams, cars and technologies that Schumacher drove which allegedly broke the rules. It’s important to note none of these were sanctioned illegal by the FIA. Even so, Schumacher to my knowledge is not an F1 car designer nor is he an engineer. So even IF any of the cars he drove broke the FIA specification rules, why is Schumacher any more a cheat or culpable than very, very many other F1 drivers whose cars have been illegal over the years?

This makes me wonder whether Darren has a scoop we’ve not heard yet. Did Armstrong have dodgy bikes too, maybe secret nitros buttons attached to the bell lever – and if so did he design them?

The final arguments from Darren – before he warbles on about gamblers, the casino of life and cashing one’s chips in – an analogy by the way that’s not objectionable – is a list of Schumacher’s driving misdemeanours. I clearly don’t have time to debate them all, though suffice to say I was screaming at the TV Adelaide 1994 when Schumacher wiped out Hill and took the WDC.

By my recollection, last weekend was Michael Schumacher’s 300th GP and the list of horrors Darren comprises consists of 7 events that prove Schumacher drove too aggressively (cheated) in order to gain an advantage – 2 of which are from this year. Darren is obviously too young to remember Senna and Prost et al, maybe someone should send him the Senna DVD for Christmas this year.

Anyway, anything Schumacher did was open for all too see, criticise and comment upon. It was not a decade of secretive, behind the scenes lying to the world. Heath’s comparison of Schumacher to Armstrong is odious, and at best displays a complete lack of skill in communicating by the written word.

Michael Schumacher is 7 times F1 World Driver’s Champion, and in that number the comparison to Armstrong ends. I am left strangely warmed toward Schumacher after reading Heath’s piece, and this feeling is even more strange when it is toward someone I’ve always thought is as cold as steel.

The record stand for Michael, 68 poles, 155  podiums and 91 wins, but there is a grain of an idea buried deep in Darren’s piece that James Hosford ( articulates well. “The fact that Michael could so fundamentally shape an entire team, an entire tyre company and an entire SPORT around his needs may raise questions in terms of sporting ethics [in F1], but it is undoubtedly an astonishing achievement.” The records apart, to me this achievement alone cements Michael Schumacher’s greatness forever in the annuls of F1 history.

Original article written by: Darren who? (Some F1 Photographer bloke)

28 responses to “Schumacher’s Legacy: Legend? or just a cheat like Armstrong?

  1. Think Nico’s win in china was a dry race but the lottery of hooking up the tyres makes your original point about the win valid.

    The funniest thing in Darren whats his name article is blaming Schumacher for the illegal barge boards in 1999. From what I remember then Schumi was resting up most of the year with a broken leg and Eddie was going for the championship.

    Nice to see someone standup for the guy. I used to think it was just Andrew Benson and Joe Saward immensely hated Schumacher but now I guess another has been converted to their bitter ways.

    • Thanks for the correction. I was just getting off a train in London and off to meetings so wanted to post the article and I didn’t have chance to re-read it. Will amend when I get WIFI.

  2. Meh, it’s just the inability of many people in Britain to accept a German is better than them. The procession of British ex-drivers now abusing their positions as driving stewards to conduct one man hate campaigns needs to stop.

  3. Another day, another hatchet job on Schumacher… It seems that the British F1 press are still fighting WW2 sometimes. I like the fact that he allows comments on his blog… I mean that he doesn’t allow comments on his blog. Maybe he’s too “important” to “allow discussion” about contentious pieces he writes, and the fact that he covers any potential criticism by getting his Ad Hominem attacks on Schumacher’s supporters in right at the start shows a real maturity to his writing. He is a great photographer and I have long admired his lenswork, but he aint no journalist. Schumacher’s legacy is what it is, and I have a sneaking suspicion that there are numerous people within Mercedes F1 who would see his contribution to developing that team as ( I believe) future big hitters being a very definite part of that.
    Great blog by the way Judge. I followed a link which you left at JA on F1 and have been very pleasantly surprised by the depth of knowledge which you clearly have, as well as your obvious passion for the sport. You are bookmarked and being regularly checked!

  4. I’m not defending Armstrong here, but I do want to make something a bit more clear for anyone who isn’t familiar with the story. On top of that, you have seem to have made some sort of jump between Lance and Michael that makes no sense in my mind. Lance has never been found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs (even the cortisone from the Tour de Suisse can’t be proven). What Lance is guilty of is finally, after countless years and immense amounts of his own money spent, said that he will no longer address the topic. What happens then? The media and the federations pounce. The crazy part is that he has been found guilty by both of those parties, as well as the general public, WITHOUT a trial or proof (I’m talking actual proof, not confessions of admitted dopers).

    I’m a big F1 fan, although not completely up on ins and outs of Michael’s infractions. I don’t think that he has even been caught knowingly using an illegal car (please correct me if I am wrong), just like Lance hasn’t been caught using drugs – a point that you make as well. I love your writing, it is well done and it’s great to see some very strong op ed work that doesn’t walk on F1’s egg shells, but Lance is innocent until proven guilty.

    Also, great to read some positive and defensive words on Michael.

    • Thanks for your contribution. If you can help publicise the site by either retweeting my tweets that announce a publication or posting links in comment sections to other sites it would be very helpful.

  5. Having read Darren Heath’s article on Schumacher, and the level of severity within it, I’m thinking that Schuey at some point, must either have ran over Heath’s pet dog, or had it away with his girlfriend/wife. I think he needs to put down his handbag, and stick to his camera. lol.

  6. Everybody should do their own work and not what should do others. Candy-maker should do candies and not write articles …

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  8. I am sorry but I think Darren Heath has a point here. Schumacher’s cheating list is longer than any can suspect. Let me explain a little here. In 1994 he DID have an illegal car, they DID find illegal software (launch & traction control) in his B194. They did however NOT remove this software and the team ‘claimed’ not using it. This is however a different story than for instance Jos Verstappen claimed not so long ago; that Michaels car had stuff in/on it what he was not able to use. (concealment)

    In a long stretch; IF the FIA where to punish them in 1994 for that, the results would have been devastating to the sport as a whole. Because in a way one could think that Senna was fighting an illegal car what could do things what his Williams never could. And yet, he tried….

    Another concealment with the car to gain seconds(!!!) of advantage in races was removing the safety filter with re-fueling. Remember they only discovered this when they had a Verstappen BBQ in Germany. (how many races into the season was that? No one cares? How many races did they cheatingly had advantage with this, one can re-calculate.)

    I won’t even start about the sportmanship he displayed in his carreer, like he HAD NONE.

    I won’t even go into his Ferrari carreer period, what was very controversial as well of course, (tires, engine mapping software aka traction control, prefered threatment etc.)

    Schumacher has been a huge shame to the sport! And taking only ONE of his title’s away would do a littlebit right again.

    • Thanks for your first comment – good to have you in the debate. Whilst all you say may be true, the drivers weren’t accused of cheating in ‘spygate’

      • Hi, thanks. Spygate is a total different event, however it included some of the same players, like Flavio Briatore for instance. The lesser people knowing about it the better, and I suspect the “cheat”team of 94 was about as small as it could get. However, to be able to activate the hidden illegal software, one should have to KNOW about it, so Schumacher had to be ‘in the know’ back then. And Flavio is known for pushing the limit under the table, out of sight, under the radar and outside the regulations.

        I think therefor as driver, Michael had to be in back then. He never apoligized.

        We already have another formula one driver who claimed that Michael DID cheat in 1994, none other than his teammate back then. How many does one need to prove something nowadays something so elusive from so long ago? Is it possible that Michael was none other than a lucky bastard allowing to win so much in the past, only with the help of ‘unfair’ advantages? His second carreer indeed does indicate something like that. Mercedes was a team unlike ANY other place Michael drove for in F1. 2 cars, 2 IDENTICAL cars, identical tires identical software, etc. oh, yeah. identical threatment. And Michael is haveing none of it, the results have shown us the past three years.

        Michaels Benneton/Ferrari carreer was a combination of nationalistic and above all economical and political Force’s what somehow forced him to have or use a car seconds faster than anyone, with gadgets on it, drivers (teammates) moving over, better tires and FIA-pet treatment in order to end up most on top. Maybe not ALL his wins, granted, but I would say like 80% of them.

        His Mercedes carreer only showed the man was not capable competing in Formula one in this ‘new formula’ for him. All the external forces what where there before, where gone.

        • How about Gordon Murray many considered an F1 design legend with his active ride height that was illegal? They just couldn’t prove it because the car was only illegal when running, when stationary it complied…F1 history I’m afraid…now we’re in a new world where regs are enforced properly. But great detail in your contribution – much appreciated the effort you gone to. Keep posting. Good debate.

          • GM is still a legend and has recently invented new car production methods for his city car. His newm methods have been the subject of much interest from several major motor manufacturers and others. (Basically they allow small/mid volume production without the normal huge tooling investment)

        • In fact the drivers Alonso and De La Rosa both turned queens evidence and got a free pardon. But both had been
          instrumental in directing the spying to certain items.

  9. Yet still I believe Spygate did not have such an devastating effect on the F1 and it’s field as the removed fuel-rig and use of traction/launch control in the one single b194 in 1994 … no one died because of Spygate …

  10. Hello! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I genuinely enjoy reading your blog posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums
    that go over the same topics? Many thanks!

  11. It has been pretty well established that Shumi and Benneton cheated in 1994 by using traction control. Michael also cheated by crashing Damon Hill out. Senna was watching Michael’s car carefully and he believed they were using traction control. I am not defending some of the dodgy things that Senna did, but Michael’s career has been tainted by a pattern of cheating, both by himself and his teams. I hope to God that Vettel does not win this year, he is already reminding me too much of somebody, if you know what I mean,

  12. Let me think about it: Schumacher and Ferrari took steroids, and won it all because of that.
    Illegal cars? proof with documents, not with those “I guess”. It’s so easy to accuse anything, or anyone, blabbing just a few words.
    The fact is that: some people can’t deal with the FACT that Schumacher got 7 world drivers championships. Those ones just hates drivers who got huge sucess in their careers, like Vettel nowadays.
    Wait a sec, but what about Sebastien Löeb??? He cheated too? I never seen any word in that direction in press, blogs, or TV shows….
    I think the matter isn’t just the dynasty itself, but the Germany.

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