The era of Michael Schumacher, the seven times world champion of Formula One racing finally came to an end in Brazil on Sunday 22nd Oct 2006. He is regarded as one of the most successful drivers of all time. What are the secrets of his success?
Perhaps the main secret is his ability to prioritize. He decides on his main goal in life and then pursues it with enormous commitment.
On Sunday, 10th September 2006, I left my house for a walk just as the Formula One race at Monza, the home circuit of Ferrari, was beginning. Schumacher was one of the favorites to win. I wanted to watch the race but my priority was exercise.
As expected, Michael won the race and then announced his retirement from Formula One. One probable reason for his retirement is that he feels that he cannot give his racing career the time and effort it demands.
His priority may now be his family and other key aspects of his life. He owns several houses in pleasant locations and will be able to give his family a rich and varied life. His annual income of about 30 million dollars should mean that he will never need to work again.
He has made motor racing his priority for the last thirty years and Formula One has been his priority for the last fifteen years. This must be one of the main reasons for his success. A Jack of all trades is master of none.
Jenson Button, a thoughtful British driver, believes that Schumacher is as good as ever, but thinks that he has reached a point in his life when racing cars is no longer a priority:
“I don’t think he is on the wane. There comes a time when you need more in your life. Formula One can’t be your whole life.”
Another secret of Michael Schumacher’s success is his fitness. Racing drivers need to be very, very fit. Michael is so fit that he can finish a race without breaking sweat.
I saw him recently on TV working out on a kicking bag. His flexibility allowed him to kick high and hard. He also uses weights in his workouts.
After he broke his leg badly at the British Grand Prix in 1999, he worked very hard to return to fitness. He came back fitter and stronger.
“His level of fitness is incredible,” says Ross Brawn, his strategist.
Murray Walker, the great commentator, pinpointed a third secret to his success as being his ‘massive application’ to every aspect of his craft. Working hard at their skills and knowledge can make anyone into a very valuable and well-paid person.
Murray believes Michael helped turn Ferrari round:
“When Michael joined Ferrari, they were a struggling team but then Michael and Ferrari began one of the most impressive comebacks in Formula One history. But it would be hard work.”
Button commented on this aspect:
“Michael is one of the first to really work in every area you could think of – in training and pushing his team as hard as he could. He spent night and day trying to improve the car.”
Ross Brawn, Michael’s strategist, agreed:
“His application was at a different level to anyone prior to him both inside the car and outside the car.”
Michael believes in teamwork and his first action after his triumphant win at Monza was to walk over to his mechanics and other team members to give them a hug and words of appreciation.
Brawn comments: “He took his involvement with the team and his work with the engineers to a new level. It is not unusual for him to be here to 10 or 11 on Saturday night.”
Eddie Jordan agrees: “Very few people that I have ever come across spend as much time as he does making sure that his car is as perfect as it can be.”
A Formula One driver cannot be a champion without a great car and a great team of people to service and maintain it. He also needs the help of expert strategists like Ross Brawn, the master mind behind many of his victories.
There were tears in the Ferrari garage as they contemplated the end of Schumacher’s racing career but not every one in motor sport was tearful. As you might expect, the rivals of Ferrari were not shedding any tears at his departure!
The head of the Renault opposition – Flavio Briatore – was asked how much he would miss Schumacher. His reply was brief and to the point:
“I won’t miss him at all!”
Recently, on a website dedicated to persuading Schumacher to stay, a dissenting voice managed to escape the censors:
“Go now, and take that useless brother with you.”
Some of his fellow drivers felt that his desire to win sometimes took him over the edge of fairness. Brawn admits that but feels that being willing to go over the edge is what makes him a world champion.
Schumacher has several enemies but few can deny his talent and, possibly, genius. Martin Brundle was his racing team mate for several years:
“I am in awe of his driving skill He still has his speed and fitness but it is better to stop a year too early than a year too late. He is a good all rounder and one of the greats of all time.”
What lessons can we learn from Michael Schumacher’s Formula One career?
Decide on your priorities and stick to them until you succeed and feel ready to move on to other things.
Work very hard at developing all the skills, including fitness, which are necessary to achieve excellence in your chosen career. It helps if you choose a career you have talent for. Sometimes, however, hard work can create talent where it did not appear to exist before. It can even turn talent into genius.
Recognize the importance of teamwork and show your appreciation of the people that support you in your career.
Ignore the comments and lack of respect shown you by rivals or enemies and, if you can’t ignore them, at least don’t let them discourage you from pursuing your chosen course.
Retire when you are at the top of your game.
According to the record books, Michael is the greatest driver of all time in Formula One. However, some feel that the controversial incidents in his career place him below the great Ayrton Senna who died in 1994 at the San Marino Grand Prix.
Maybe a new, younger driver like Alonso or Jensen Button will overtake them both