Yesterday Michael Schumacher announced he will retire from F1 racing at the end of the season. Although it was widely expected, it’s always tough to hear a living legend announce he’s leaving his profession.
Just prior to the announcement, Schumacher won the Italian Grand Prix for the fifth time, making it 90 career victories. It also put him just a few points behind Fernando Alonso and first place, as well as launched Ferrari into the constructor’s championship points lead with just three races to go.
Auto racing has some pretty famous names, such as Fangio, Nuvolari, Ascari, Senna, Foyt, Gurney, Moss, Andretti, Petty, Unser… but none reach Schuey’s level. His seven F1 titles make him the most dominant grand prix driver ever ahead of Fangio’s five. As the world’s highest compensated athlete, he shares a level of international fame matched only by Michael Jordan.
Schuey’s retirement actually offers Ferrari the opportunity to scale back its expensive F1 program, but that is unlikely to happen with boy-wonder Kimi Raikkonen coming to the team. It would actually be nice to see Ferrari go back into production racing with some serious vengeance, making overall and class wins at Le Mans, Sebring and Daytona feasible. It’d be cheaper than F1, too.
Hell, with NASCAR’s absolute joke definition of “stock car,” Ferrari could probably run and win on the ovals, as well. Of course, NASCAR fans aren’t really in the market for a Ferrari, because it’s too hard to fit a gun rack, case of Busch beer and a bible in a 430 Spider.
Schumacher will be missed by millions of race fans who have come to love his amazing ability to win.
…Come to think of it, there are so many other retirements that the world would actually like to see instead of Schumacher’s.
Chris Bangle – Instead of the greatest driver ever retiring from Ferrari, maybe BMW’s Design Chief and wielder of the world’s largest ugly stick should call it quits. No single design guy has single handedly made so many beautiful cars worse than Bangle. Let’s see – the great 7 Series was the first to sport the Bangle-Butt, and while it was a muscular sedan in person, it was nasty from a couple angles and represented horribly in pictures. The shark-like Z3 wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it turned into the ugly Z4, which has more competing lines than the fraternity night at Hooters. Finally the 5 and 3 were stripped of their sexiness.
So a lot of Bimmer fans would love to see a Board of Directors kick Bangle’s butt to a company where he can’t do any damage, like Kia.
I-Drive – While we’re at it, BMW needs to throw out its I-Drive everything-control. The original objective was to clean up the myriad of buttons with an-easy-to-use single control for the stereo, HVAC and navigation functions. I-Drive continues to make drivers take their eyes off the road for multiple second to access simple functions previously done with a muscle-memory push of a button or knob rotation. Speaking of buttons, since I-Drive proved so difficult to use, all the one-function buttons are back on the dash, console and steering wheel. So not only did I-Drive fail to be easy to use, it also created even more clutter.
Crossovers – Yes, I know…these are the “hot” vehicles on the market. The problem is, however, that crossovers are like all-season tires – do everything, but nothing well. Crossovers will be a blip on the automotive history timeline, because they are essentially just halfway houses for former SUV abusers. Sooner or later, people will realize that crossovers are similarly sized to sedans that share the same platform, yet they handle worse, are slower to accelerate and stop, get worse gas mileage, deliver less content, are more cheaply built, and cost ten-plus percent more than sedan counterparts. Oh, and they all look like short yellow school buses.
Start Buttons – Thank god for the retro hoopla, because instead of just slotting in a key and twisting, now we get to insert a key, twist, then move to a different button to start and stop the car. Sure, a start button on a new sports car gives you that old-school feeling, like my Triumph TR3, but one on a mid-line sedan is just annoying.
Car Advertising Disclaimers – Just once I’d like to see a company tell the lawyers to sod-off and run a television advertisement without that stupid line “professional driver on closed course.” I realize that it’s a professional driver doing that beautiful four wheel drift, and I know it’s a closed course, because there are no SUVs weaving around while the soccer moms behind the wheel use one hand to drink Starbucks and the other to dial cell phones.
And if you don’t know that Jeep can’t actually drive underwater like a ride at Disneyland, you probably can’t read the disclaimer, anyway. Of course, that also means you don’t know Jeep’s reliability record, which makes you a perfect customer.
Jim Wangers’ Hairpiece – As the ad man for Pontiac in 1964, Jim Wangers was instrumental in creating not only the GTO, but also the muscle car craze. Back then he was pattern bald. In the 1980s he reappeared on the scene wearing something similar to a flattened ferret.on his cranium. The hairpiece is so bad it makes the Pontiac Aztek look beautiful. For god’s sake, Jim, as an ad-man you know nobody’s buying that it’s your own hair, so it’s time to retire it. The GTOs all looked great with no top and so will you.