There is no arguing with the fact that one of the most notable absentees at last night’s FIA F1 Hall of Fame opening was seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher, the German having been seriously injured in a skiing accident in December 2013.
Representing the German legend was his manager Sabine Kehm, who admitted that nothing would have pleased Schumacher more than to have been in the company of so many other champions.
“I’m just a poor replacement this evening,” she said. “We all know Michael should be here. I’m sure he would love to be here.
“He always had the highest respect for everyone in this room,” she continued. “He would feel honoured.
“I also know how big a friend Michael is of Jean,” she said of the FIA president Jean Todt, who was Schumacher’s boss and friend during his eleven-year stint with Ferrari. “I’m sure he would be proud of him for making this possible.
“I don’t think it was only discipline that made him so special,” she concluded, “I think what made him so successful was the love and compassion with everyone else in the room, the love and passion for this sport.”
Todt subsequently revealed that despite the German’s arrogant facade, deep down he was filled with self-doubt, never more so than after winning his first title with Ferrari in 2000.
Having finally won the title at the fifth attempt with the Italian team, which, as Fernando Alonso, Fernando Alonso and many other will confirm has a knack for shooting itself in the foot, Schumacher asked for a private test at Fiorano to convince himself he was still up to it.
“I remember when he was driving for Ferrari, there are two things I will mention,” said Todt. “In 2000, after 21 years, Ferrari was champion with Michael. I took him to the podium, and I said ‘Michael, our racing life will never be the same’. Clearly that day at Suzuka, that has been the strongest moment in my career.
“Another thing to show what Michael is like, is when he was finishing the 2000 season as champion, we were starting the 2001 season. He asked me – quite shy, because he’s a shy guy. He looks arrogant but he’s shy – he asked me; ‘would you allow me to do some testing in Fiorano to make sure I am still able to drive?’
“He was always full of doubt, whether he was a good driver or not. He made his testing, and he was not too bad.
“We miss Michael,” said the Frenchman. “He’s there, still fighting. I’m happy to have Sabine here, to run the family business. I wanted Mick to come tonight but he’s doing some testing in Spain and Corinna is in the States.
“A fight is going on. Michael is someone very special, someone special for motorsport. He’s special to me, he’s a friend.”