A few days before this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, it was announced that Michael Schumacher’s son, Mick, would do a demonstration run in one of his father’s old cars. The car was the infamous blue, green and white Benetton B194 that his father had driven to the 1994 championship title.
The elder Schumacher has not made a public appearance since his skiing accident in 2013 and there has been no further update on Schumacher’s condition. Since he came out of a medically induced coma six months following the accident and was transferred to his home in Switzerland, all that has been reported is that he cannot walk. This was a fitting tribute to a great of the sport and one whose son is trying desperately hard to follow in his footsteps.
Michael’s affinity to Spa-Francorchamps
Why at the Belgian Grand Prix though and on this particular weekend? Well, Spa-Francorchamps, where this weekend’s stage was held, is a track synonymous with Schumacher perhaps more than any other. The seven-time world champion debuted there in 1991 and actually won for the first time at this track in 1992, going on to win here six times. Even more fitting was that this year’s race was the 25th anniversary of his first Grand Prix victory. Schumacher also delivered many spectacular races in the often damp conditions at the winding hillside track, entertaining the crowd and lighting up the sport like no other.
For the excited spectators in the grandstands, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness Michael’s car, for probably the last time, in which he clinched the 1994 title in a nail-biting finish in Adelaide, where he squeezed out Britain’s Damon Hill by just one point. For Mick, Schumacher’s 18-year-old son, the car was not what he was used to.
“It felt like the torque was a bit different – in Formula 3 we have a lot of power in the bottom, top line speed is not that impressive.
“Here it’s more that we have top line speed where the engine just pushes and pushes, until it hits the limiter.
“You feel that it fits differently, it is not adapted to me. Everything is just that little bit different,” — Mick Schumacher.
Formula 3 to F1
This is because Mick is himself a racer in the European Formula Three Championships, a category in which his father started out in. Formula Three is widely regarded as the first major stepping stone for F1 hopefuls – it is typically the first point in a driver’s career at which most drivers in the series are aiming at professional careers in racing rather than being amateurs and enthusiasts. Ranked 11th, Mick has some way to go before he has a chance to grace the hallowed asphalt his father won many a race on. Yet Michael won his first title at the age of 25; Mick still has seven years to follow in his father’s footsteps. And, after finishing second two years in a row in Formula 4, he has already made the step up to F3.
The spectacle at the weekend though was one for the adolescent to savour, regardless of his future in the sport.
What an experience
“I never experienced so big an audience in motor sports. I’m very happy that I was allowed to drive here.”
“It was great, it was a pleasure for me; to be able to drive this is emotional, fun and amazing.
“There is a lot of history with it and I was really happy that I was able to drive it.
“I never saw so many people in one spot in a race weekend, so that was really entertaining and fun,” — Mick Schumacher.
In an even more emotional twist, Mick also sported a special half-and-half helmet, reflecting both his and his father’s designs.Despite being born in 1999 and thus being too young to have many memories of his father’s considerable success- he was only seven when Michael retired for the first time at the end of 2006 – he is immensely proud of his father’s copious achievements.
“It’s good to have both sides on. It’s a piece of history with it, so to be able to put it on my helmet…
“I learned a lot [from] him, I always look back at it [his motorsport career] and it’s just nice to see what he reached, all his tricks and stuff,” Mick Schumacher.
The idea for the demonstration run had come from Sabine Kehm, Michael’s long-time manager, who has looked after all the family’s public relations since Michael’s horrendous accident in 2013.
Little has been said of Schumacher’s health and this silence surrounding Schumacher’s condition will not change anytime soon. As a racer, Michael always kept his private life behind closed doors – as sportsmen should do – therefore, why would his family want to disclose any information about his well being when it is definitely not an issue for the public, regardless of how famous a racing driver he was. Mick demonstrated this at the weekend by refusing to answer any questions about his father’s health and good on him. This tribute was to the greatest F1 driver in history, it did not require any further clarification.