After winning the Italian GP in Monza, Michael Schumacher stepped to the podium with a big smile; confident as always, happy as never. At that point all we knew for sure was that he had cut Alonso Championship to a mere two points with three races remaining thanks to an engine failure in the Renault.
Minutes later in the following press conference we would know the truth when Schumacher was inquired about the emotional scene in the podium.
“To make it short in a way, this is going to be my last Monza race that I’m going to do. At the end of this year, I’ve decided, together with the team, that I’m going to retire from racing,”, Schumacher declared unveiling the second worst kept secret in Formula 1. “It has been an exceptional, really exceptional time, what motor sport has given to me in more than thirty years. I’ve really loved every single moment of the good and the bad times. Those ones make life so special.”
Motorsport will miss Schumacher as his shoes will not be easy to fill, even though the candidate Ferrari chose already know about that.
“I came to McLaren when Mika (Hakkinen) was world champion twice and it was not easy,” said Kimi Raikkonen who was revealed to be Schumacher’s successor later after the race (that’s the first worst kept secret in Formula 1). “But I will go there, do my best and hopefully it will be enough for everybody.”
Although out of contention this season, Raikkonen had a fine effort in Italy to bring the McLaren in second place and share the podium with Schumacher, and Robert Kubica, the young Polish driver who is impressing the Formula 1 circus with his performances since replacing former World Champion Jaques Villenueve three rounds ago.
“I’m really surprised to finish third,” remarked Kubica, one of the drivers who’s in the watch by experts to maybe become one of Schumachers successors as Formula 1 racing king. “We knew that we had good tires this time for the race, not only for qualifying, but when we saw that we could be competitive in qualifying as well, and go easily into third qualifying, I knew that we would have quite a consistent car for the race and that’s what happened.”
Meanwhile defending World Champion Fernando Alonso had a race to forget. First being harshly penalized for blocking Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in qualifying, a punishment that forced him to start 10th in the grid, and then with the engine failure in his Renault, that handed him his second DNF of the season.
Nevertheless the Spaniard is already looking to be the one who will inherit’s Schumacher title as “King of the road”, having already won a World Championship, and leading this years charge by two points over the German. But their ways and personality are definitely not alike.
Schumacher has always been cool and calculating, so much he was willing to crash Villeneuve out in 1997 final race to win the title.
In the other hand being Latin, Alonso is a lot more passionate and outspoken, so much, he dared saying he no longer considered Formula 1 as a sport after the penalty the race stewards gave him for supposedly blocking Felipe Massa during qualifying.
Anyhow we should not count out Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, the young Brazilian who’s currently Schumacher’s teammate in Ferrari, and Briton Jenson Button.
To that trio you may want to add also the upcoming stars who are just making their way through the Formula 1 ladder: Nico Rosberg, Robert Kubica, Heikki Kovalainen, and GP2 tittle winner Lewis Hamilton, a McLaren protege, who is the favourite to be Alonso team mate next year.
But that must wait until next year. For now, the focus is on a tight championship battle that will head down to Shanghai, China in October 1st, where Shumacher could come out in front of the standings.