Thursday afternoon rain failed to dim Michael Schumacher's spirit as he prepared for the fifth United States Grand Prix to be held on the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.605-mile road course, just three weeks after the 88th Indianapolis 500...
Thursday afternoon rain failed to dim Michael Schumacher's spirit as he prepared for the fifth United States Grand Prix to be held on the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway's 2.605-mile road course, just three weeks after the 88th Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.
Schumacher, the six-time World Champion in Formula One who appears to be inexorably steamrolling to his seventh title, seemed relaxed and confident here. Never one to toot his own horn, the Ferrari team player is looking "forward to have another special one (race) this year. The emotions of the fans was great, the reception, the show we did on the race was very good," he said in reference to his victory in this event in 2003.
Incredibly, Schumacher has been to one of this country's palaces of speed, Texas Motor Speedway, to take in the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Two years ago he stood in a queue without being recognized as World Champion. "I find it very nice. It is interesting and nice to be moving along and not be recognized," something that would never occur in Europe.
Schumacher feels that his 2003 title was among his more difficult to achieve. "At the end of the day, I just move a bit quicker around in circles" than other drivers, he believes. "But I just have a good year, for whatever reason. That doesn't explain the last year, which was sort of more difficult than I had [in] other years and sort of coming back more to what I used to be."
He admitted arriving here in Indy last September with feelings of pessimism "and coming home with much more than I anticipated." While he likes the Grand Prix circuit constructed within the 2.5-mile historic Brickyard oval, Michael Schumacher does believe "we obviously don't race the real Indianapolis. We have our own circuit done within the existing one, so it's sort of compromised.
"For us, Formula One races, you sort of always talk about Spa, Suzuka, those sort of circuits. For the cars we have, this is the ultimate challenge," he said. "Indianapolis is a nice Grand Prix, a lot of historic background. It's great for us to be here, but it's not the challenge of the other two I explained," Schumacher admitted. Still, he has no desire to compete in the Indy 500.
Recalling the difficulty of getting a first victory in Formula One, Schumacher can empathize with Jenson Button, who continues to creep closer to the top step of the podium. "I think where he is, with the possibilities he has, Jenson is just looking forward to the moment when it will happen. Racing is like sport," the master stated, "you can never predict when it will happen. I believe he is very motivated rather due to the fact he hasn't done it yet."
Schumacher still has plenty to achieve in his momentous career. Six titles (and an ensuing seventh) aren't quite enough. "Just keep enjoying, honestly. Just keep enjoying, that's the main thing." Seven victories in eight races might suffice for some, but as the German continues to pursue victories and titles, continuing to derive pleasure from his time behind the wheel of his Ferrari F1 challenger.
While he has also taken five pole positions in these eight events, Schumacher and his Bridgestone tires haven't been at their best in time trials. At San Marino he was outside the front row; in Monaco Schumacher qualified fifth (and failed to finish) while last week in Canada he took sixth on the 20-car grid, still roaring to victory.
"In maybe two Grands Prix we might have had slight disadvantage in qualifying, and for the others we were probably quite dominant," he remarked. "The Bridgestones will work in the race anyway, so when it doesn't work in qualifying we'll, hopefully make it work in the race."
The current point system, with its emphasis on consistency not wins isn't Schumacher's favorite. As it doesn't reflect or credit victories, Schumacher would prefer to see it changed: "I think 'yes', the others think 'no'" about changing the current system.
Still, Schumacher appears energized as he waltzes to Title #7, according to team manager Ross Brawn. "The matter of fact is that straight from starting with testing I was on the pace [this season], everything was going well and I felt well. Last year, for whatever reason, here and there, there was a problem with the car.
"I couldn't run and it was all a little more difficult," he recalled. "Sometimes you have those moments where things are difficult and now they're back to what it used to be. More normal and everything goes my way," and you can sense his joy.
"We didn't anticipate to win as many races as we have. We go back to January testing, we were very pessimistic on this season. We thought it was going to be a very, very tough one; it's not going to be the way it has gone. So we're obviously very happy.
"We have done a beautiful car, which at presentation everybody felt it was not really a big obvious step. It just looked sort of similar to the old one, but on the circuit it performed very well," Schumacher said. "And the tires Bridgestone has made did theirs (well), so both together are responsible for the success."
But this success is due more to tires, to the car and even to the team. In Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, and in fact Formula One, have a champion for the ages.