This is about 5 days too late, but better late than weak tea.
I started watching F1 in '96 - I think mainly because a certain British driver was doing rather well. He, along with most of the others in the paddock, and the entire F1 fanbase had something to say about one Herr Michael Schumacher. Most of it uncomplimentary.
Damon, of course, won the F1 World Championship that year, although a lot of peeps were saying it was more down to his car rather than his driving ability. Michael had got himself disqualified - from the whole season. I don't remember the full details (though trying to run Hill off the road had something to do with it) but I don't think that British had been that pleased since 1966.
Course, I went along with the views of a lot of the fraternity - here was one arrogant, self centred, precocious son of a gun.
Then I watched his driving over the next 10 years and the disgust turned into utter admiration.
Oh yeah, sure, there were 'incidents'. And I'm not about to excuse them. Some of them were Michael all over, some of them he admitted and some of them weren't even his fault (but because he was 'involved' this all added to the 'Schumacher is ruining F1' debate)
I hear a lot about Senna - I wasn't watching in those days, but it seems that those that say that, although Schumacher is, statistically, the greatest F1 racing driver there ever was, that Senna is still their number 1 all time greatest racing driver.
For those that know all there is to know about racing, this could be informed opinion. Unfortunately, for the majority that say that it is down, in part, to that niggling little irration we have with all things and people German (though we do like Mercedes) and in part they don't want to be associated with someone that they think cheated his way to stardom.
You don't cheat all 90+ wins.
And I hate conjecture. Like when they say 'Senna would have wiped the floor with him'. Senna's dead guys. Senna could have been just seriously injured and given up racing the next day. He could have been so shaken up that he was never the same again. Or he could have been knocked down by a bus after the season ended. Conjecture is pointless. Just look at the guy's ability, particularly when Brundle, who is not, it has to be said, Schumacher's greatest fan, be awstruck by the sort of talent he displayed last Saturday. Effectively running last, he finished fourth and it seemed that every lap included another jaw-dropping, edge of the sofa with screams manouvre. It was like he was saying 'This is Me, this is what F1 will be missing when I'm gone and I am, and always will be, the greatest there ever was'.
Arrogance? Oh sure. But who cares about arrogance when you see a car driven so perfectly?
Some said Schumacher ruined F1. But I, for one, will probably not watch much more because of him dropping out. I can't see anyone beating his records, and I can't see any other personality in the paddock that will give us something to talk about on Monday morning. You see, one thing that Michael wasn't, was boring.
Farewell Michael, gosh I'll miss you.