Kevin Garside: Schumacher still driven by primal need

The Way I See It: Many F1 fans were never comfortable with the marriage of freakish speed and shifting morals

If Michael Schumacher were ever to treat us to a flying cameo before he quits the Formula One big top it had to be at Monaco, that sacred Mediterranean pearl where the contrasting attributes that defined him are etched so graphically. It was here that Schumacher's insane talent claimed his first pole 18 years ago, where he has taken five victories, and where in 2006 he revealed his diabolical core, parking his Ferrari at Rascasse to block Fernando Alonso in qualifying.

It took Formula One's ruling body, the FIA, 10 hours to rule on Schumacher's guilt and cast him to the back of the grid for the start of the race. Most of the sport's retinue had repaired to the yacht parties and received the news via the waterfront telegraph, jarring against the gentle tinkling of champagne flutes. Ferrari's general manager, Jean Todt, now the FIA president, was having none of it, shaking his head by the motorhome door and proclaiming his man's innocence.

Schumacher's need to win in the elite years was probably pathological. It might be the case that so deep and dark are the forces that drive him they can never be acknowledged outside the theatre of combat. A lusty proportion of Formula One fans were never comfortable with the marriage of freakish speed and shifting morals. It did not do much either for Formula One writers of a certain vintage, or Schumacher-wins-again correspondents as they became known, compelled to sell to the boss on a fortnightly basis news of another Teutonic sweep to the chequered flag.

Until Saturday's qualifying peak, Schumacher's return had left the purists untroubled. That he was denied the chance to start from the front row courtesy of a penalty handed down for smashing into the back of Bruno Senna in Barcelona a fortnight ago neatly reinforced their haughty sense of heroism.

In that great parlour game "who is the greatest driver ever?" the disturbing character flaws rendered inadmissible whatever genius he might possess. No matter how good Schumacher was behind the wheel, it was cancelled out by the bad stuff. Thus he often lost out around the dinner table to Juan Manuel Fangio, Jim Clark, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost; and to Gilles Villeneuve and Stirling Moss, neither of whom won a World Championship but who laced their deeds of derring-do with Corinthian spirit.

The Schumacher psyche has never bothered about that. There is something primal about him, which you might argue places him closer to our natural state than the aforementioned rapiers. If we are civilised to the degree that we control our base appetites, as Sigmund Freud claimed, then, in his race suit at least, Schumacher exists in a pure state of human nature, a raging amalgam of all that is good and bad about the species.

It is this intimacy with his instinctive drives that allowed him to park the emotions gnawing at his grieving soul on the weekend of his mother's death in 2003.

Schumacher had endured the worst start to his career at Ferrari and arrived in the Scuderia's heartland of Imola, an hour from the Maranello factory, needing to do something big at the San Marino Grand Prix. The crowd knew nothing of his personal distress. They cared little about the glory he had brought them with three successive world drivers' crowns. That was yesterday. Schumacher stuck it on pole on Saturday before flying north to Germany to say a final farewell to a mother he had been told was entering her last hours. He learnt of his mother's death on the morning of the race. But you would not have known it as he went to the grid. He then tabled Ferrari's first win of the season, a telling detail en route to his fourth successive World Championship, his sixth in all.

Arguably he left one of his finest drives until last, his final race for Ferrari at Interlagos in 2006. An engine failure while leading at the previous grand prix in Japan left him needing to win in Brazil and hope Fernando Alonso would finish outside the points if he were to win the world title for an eighth time.

He was ridiculously quick all weekend but a fuel pressure problem meant he could not set a time in final qualifying, so he started from 10th. A puncture incurred while overtaking Giancarlo Fisichella in the opening laps dropped him to 19th, 70 seconds behind the leaders.

That might have been the time to call it a day. The world title was gone. Not Schumacher. He bolted from the pits to give one of the great demonstrations of the driver's craft, taking Fisichella a second time before finishing fourth. In defeat he proved his value as a racing man as emphatically as he ever had in victory. Pele honoured him with a lifetime achievement award before the race. His detractors turned their heads, soon to be rid of the evil baron.

And then he gave us that wicked lap on Saturday, a kind of haunting to remind the sport that greatness like his is with us for ever, good or bad.

News
peopleTop Gear presenter and all-round controversialist is at it again
Life & Style
techHow a 'grey brick' took over the world of portable gaming
Sport
Aaron Ramsey celebrates after opening the scoring in Arsenal's win over Hull `
sport
News
peopleActress speaks out against historic sexual assault claims, saying things have 'gone quite far now'

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Coren Mitchell, who is the daughter of the late broadcaster Alan Coren and is married to comedian David Mitchell, produced a hand to make poker history at the 98th EPT main event.
peopleJournalist and TV presenter becomes first ever two-time winner of the European Poker Tour
Arts & Entertainment
A stranger calls: Martin Freeman in ‘Fargo’
tvReview: New 10-part series brims with characters and stories

Life & Style
Guests enjoy food and cocktail parings by Chefs Jimmy Bannos, Jimmy Bannos Jr, Daniel Rose and Mindy Segal with mixologists Josh King and Alex Gara at Bounty & Barrel: A Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Dinner Series at Heaven on Seven on April 9, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois.
food + drinkSprinkle Palcohol 'on almost any dish' for 'an extra kick' firm says...
Arts & Entertainment
Shaun Evans as Endeavour interviews a prisoner as he tries to get to the bottom of a police cover up
tvReview: Second series comes to close with startling tale of police corruption and child abuse
Arts & Entertainment
Schwarzenegger winning Mr. Universe 1969
arts + entsCan you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
News
politicsLabour launches the 'completely hollow' Easter Clegg
Sport
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring in Liverpool's 3-2 win over Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
News
Portrait of Queen Elizabeth-II by David Bailey which has been released to mark her 88th birthday
peoplePortrait released to mark monarch's 88th birthday
Arts & Entertainment
The star of the sitcom ‘Miranda’ is hugely popular with mainstream audiences
TVMiranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
Life & Style
The writer, Gerda Saunders, with her mother, who also suffered with dementia before her death
healthGerda Saunders on the most formidable effect of her dementia
Arts & Entertainment
Last, but by no means least, is Tommy Cooper and the fez. This style of hat became a permanent trademark of his act.
comedyNot Like That, Like This centres on alleged domestic abuse
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter: The man who could have been champion of the world - and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him

The man who could have been champion of the world

Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter and the Bob Dylan song that immortalised him
Didn’t she do well?

Didn’t she do well?

Miranda Hart lined up for ‘Generation Game’ revival
The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

The Middle East we must confront in the future will be a Mafiastan ruled by money

In Iraq, mafiosi already run almost the entire oil output of the south of the country
Before they were famous

Before they were famous

Can you guess the celebrity from these British Pathe News clips?
Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is genius

Martin Freeman’s casting in Fargo is a stroke of genius

Series is brimming with characters and stories all its own
How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players