... and if you come to Spa
The Michael Schumacher Story
>The Race Will Never End< From the testament of Wolfgang Graf Berghe von Trips
The American Pete Aaron is a figure of phantasy. He does not exist in reality. The man with the helmet of the famous Chris Amon on the rostrum of Spa 1966, above the pits of the steep start and finish straight and in front of the old main grandstand (with the monument for the 1929 killed Freddy Carlier), being celebrated so much by an enthusiastic crowd when the American national anthem is heard, down in the Ferrari pit dramatic scenes are being played because of a boy from the neighbourhood being killed when watching the race, this man is no Grand Prix driver at all. The sequence belongs to the movie Grand Prix being as long as ingenious of the brilliant director John Frankenheimer, who produced this masterpiece of film history at the original locations in the years 1966 and 1967. And it has not lost anything of his topicality in spite of the fact that it is over three decades old now. Formula One through the eyes of an artist, the characters, in spite of their extreme description, perfectly drawn, with James Garner (who became popular in Europe by the detective series Rockford ) playing the part of the sometimes undiplomatic former Ferrari and B.R.M. driver Aaron, who was later was welcomed by the Japanese with open arms, when nobody wanted to have anything to do with him (for this character there might be the models Ronnie Bucknum, Ritchie Ginther, John Surtees and Honda ) and Frenchman Yves Montand as the Ferrari star driver Sarti full of doubts (a mixture out of Surtees again, Lorenzo Bandini with some attributes of Phil Hill), that is the best shown in cinema about this sport and it will be in the foreseeable future. Chris Amon at least, who already competed in Grand Prix racing at the age of 19, did not only loan his helmet (that was taken off the Kiwi national bird of New Zealand) to Garner, but also worked as a kind of stuntman driver in all the racing scenes, later drove for the great factory teams of Ferrari und Matra and small equipes like Tecno and Ensign, where financing the budget often was the biggest problem not to talk about the working conditions like a real adventure at March. Amon, who tried to be an engine manufacturer and Formula One constructor, too, without any success (by that he lost the most of his money), retired after Niki Laudas accident at the Nürburgring 1976 seeing the big fire, but drove tests for Austro Canadian oil millionaire Walter Wolf for a while, but to win a Grand Prix he was, in contrast to Aaron, never able to. Today he is back again in New Zealand, lives as a farmer breeding sheep, is married for the second time and I met him for the first time since his retirement at the beginning of December 1989 , for a photo session at the Ferrari Day at the Jochen Rindt Show in Essen. It was only four weeks after the opening of the Berlin Wall has changed the world and he, who suffered so much under renal problems and depressions, but first of all under a desease of children at the age of 25 the doctors did not recognize the right time, looks like a Benjamin among the old, often decrepit men from the period of promotorism of the Grand Prix worldchampionship, John Surtees with a plaster at his head, the hair greyer and shorter, but he is slim and athletic as ever.
The both ultralight planes at the Berlin sky are moving slowly but successively into westward direction, their height may be estimated 100 metres, but there is no reaction fron the heavily armed soldiers at the frontier at the eastside. The order to shoot at once on refugees does still exsist. The Wall, the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag, some metres in front the great Victory Column: The video camera of the second of the pilots deliveres the breathtaking pictures the whole world can see some days later. Down on the still 5 kilometres long AVUS at the old Funkturm, not far away from the Deutschlandhalle and the International Congress Centre, the definitely last slipstream-battle in the history of single-seater racing takes place. Karl Wendlinger in the Ralt Alfa Romeo beats the nearly exclusively Volkswagen-Spiess powered German Formula 3 elite being only some centimetres ahead and the Grand Prix of Italy 1971 with the four-leaved clover of Gethin, Peterson, Cevert and Hailwood had not been more exciting. It is the last weekend in May 1989, but the temperatures reach such a level like otherwise in an extreme mid-summer. Some hours after the race in Berlin Ayrton Senna wins in the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (Ricardo, the younger one died there in 1961 driving a Lotus; Pedro, the older of the brothers, ten years later in a Ferrari sportscar at the Norisring of Nuremberg in Bavaria) the Grand Prix of Mexico, Emerson Fittipaldi wins the 500 Miles of Indianapolis for the first time and I am watching it live on Screensport. The following Monday, when leaving Berlin I am examined by the GDR officials like a potential criminal as the most of the other motorists, too. Easy to understand, because the by their weak economy deeply troubled communist regime is terribly shocked about the horrifying escape of the two ultralight pilots. We, who follow this circus out of drivers, technicians and fans often like gipsies do, are busy with a lots of other thoughts these days, because in this brilliant Formula 3 field there is the exception of more than the regular one driver of potential world class in it. At first there was only a vague imagination and an undifferent feeling becoming more and more reality because the facts were becoming more and more convincing. On the official press photos Karl Wendlinger looks like a brother of tennis player Pete Sampras, the belingual educated (Spanish and German) Heinz-Harald Frentzen like a member of an amateur rock band somewhere in the country and the maybe in a late phase of puberty being Michael Schumacher like a girl having a little overweight. No one of the three had to have sorrows about his own image, the times became harder without doing anything further.
It takes exactly three years and three months between the slipstream-battle on the AVUS and the dramatic wet and dry race of Spa 1992 until the victory ceremony of Frankenheimers movie is repeated in details, but now in reality, at the same location, with the same weather and the same gestures, too: Trophy, champagne and standing ovation, but in the era of multisponsoring and body advertising no wreath of laurel for Michael Schumacher in the Camel Benetton Ford B192, Germanys first Grand Prix winner since 1975. When the Deutschlandlied, Germanys national anthem, is played in the old pit lane to be heared far into the forests of the Ardennes, the rain clouds disappear over the valley of Eau Rouge, the most beautiful but also most dangerous part of a circuit in the world, the fog goes away, it is only for the fourth time in the history of the Formula One Worldchampionship. For the Americans he is Mike Shoemaker, for the Britons The Wunderkind (John Watson in Eurosport), later The Dirty Rat (The Sun), too, but for the Germans sooner or later he is the Boris Becker of Formula One: The man making an insignificant form of sport so popular for the masses, that they do not want to stop their enthusiasm. The golfer Bernhard Langer did it before, too, and at least Henry Maske from former German Democratic Republic later began the renaissance of German boxing five decades after Max Schmeling. Michael Schumacher, the Grand Prix driver with the fastest but most consistent career of all times, the talent of the century (Niki Lauda), number one in a country, where every fifth employèe works in the automotive industry (but where also is such a lot polemics against cars never to be seen in other parts of the world), has written an unparelleled story of success. If Frankenheimer had invented it for the script of his movie no one of the spectators had ever believed it.
Germany of today has got seven different car manufacturers, three of them competed in the Formula One Championship and Mercedes-Benz was the most successful company before Michael Schumacher entered Grand Prix racing. The Silver Arrows, chassis and engine were completely built in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, won ninetimes in 1954 and 1955. The legendary Juan Manuel Fangio from Argentine became world champion in both the years, but a constructors title did not yet exist. During the 1.5-litre-formula Porsche came with a whole package, too, powered by the air-cooled engines (with 4 or 8 cylinders) being typical for Porsche. American driver Dan Gurney won the one and only Grand Prix for the team in Rouen/France 1962 and some time later he married the Porsche press officer Evi Butz. Decisive work at the 1.5 litre car was done by engineer Hans Mezger, who had constructed - in 1990 and 1991 - that overweight V12 engine with its mid-transmission, that nearly killed the Footwork team, before team principal Ohashi switched to Ford Cosworth Hart units at mid-season, before it were too late. But Mezger was also the creator of the Porsche made 1.5 litre turbo engine ordered by Saudi Arabian group TAG (that means Techniques d`Avantgarde everywhere with the exception of Arabia; there it stands for Trans Arabian Group) for McLaren, that won three consecutive drivers championships (1984: Niki Lauda, 1985 and 1986: Alain Prost).
At the BMW factory first of all Austrian journalist Dieter Stappert, sports director in Munich for several years, had to prevent the executive board from selling their by engineer Paul Rosche, a funny Bavarian loving Weissbier and Radi so much, secretly created 1.5-litre-4 cylinder-turbocharged engine to France for Talbot Gitanes (that means Ligier) at the beginning of the eighties. Brabham got the works backing in spite of political quarrells and a non-qualification at the beginning of the partnership. In the final round of the 1983 championship at Kyalami (that means My Home in the dialect of the South African natives) Brazilian Nelson Piquet in the Brabham BMW BT52 became the first turbo driver to win the world title in spite of the fact at mid-season Alain Prost in the Renault was considered to be the coming champion that year by most of the fans and experts. And in Mexico 1986 Gehard Berger and the Benetton team both won their first ever Grand Prix.
German companies and Formula one: The balance sheet is not as bad as it can be thought of and the comeback of Mercedes-Benz with the Peter Sauber AG from Switzerland in 1993 is at least positive when looking at the experiences Renault and Honda made earlier for instance. But the public opinion was formed by the dilettantes anyway. There was caravan producer Günther Hennerici from Mayen, about 20 kilometres apart from the Nürburgring circuit, sponsor of Cologne driver Rolf Sommelen, whom he made leave the team of Rob Walker and John Surtees in a big quarrell after a pretty ineffective 1971 season. After that Hennerici bought a chassis of the intermediate type 721, thats original aerodynamics based on a concept of Frank Costin, from March Engineering Ltd. and ordered a revolutionary bodywork from designer Luigi Colani, who also "consructs" toilet-seats, rowing boats and computers. Colani knowing everything about aeronautics, because as a child he had been watching the aircrafts landing steadily during the time of Soviet blockade of Berlin (his own words!) is not an Italian as well as the also from Berlin coming opera singer Ivan Rebroff is a Russian. At mid-season 1972 the Eiffeland caravan factory was pretty near to bankruptcy and was sold to window manufacturer Meeth. He presented the deficit spending Formula One team as a gift to its driver Rolf Stommelen without hesitating a minute and for a sticker on the air box of the so called Eifelland Ford 21. When the team was definitely out of money after the Grand Prix of Austria in August, John Goldie from the British Hexagon team took the occassion to give his driver John Watson the chance for a debut at the Worldchampionship Victory Race (a non-championship event!) of Brands Hatch in autumn that year at very low costs. The three Ford Cosworth engines of the Eifelland team owned by Ford Cologne and - at that time - each DM 85.000 worth, they are searching until now.
Even twotimes wheel manufacturer Günter Schmid from Bad Dürkheim, not far away from Hockenheim, failed. At the end of 1976 he bought two chassis and some other equipment from US motorsport enterpreneur Roger Penske, who had been tired of Formula One racing, for his ATS team and under normal circumstances he had to be lucky with the whole deal. The car with the model designation PC4 won one Grand Prix in 1976 and irritated the coming world champion James hunt very often although the at the Nürburgring injured Niki Lauda was absent for some races. At its ATS debut the Penske Ford came home sixth in Long Beach/California and scored one point. But Jean Pierre Jarier of France, the Jumper on the Move (AUTOSPORT) is no driver to cooperate with his team in a positive manner. He prefered enjoying good food and beautiful girls than working hard his German boss wanted him to do. Later Günter Schmid successively signed contracts with the engineers Robin Herd from Britain and Gustav Brunner from Austria, employed Jochen Mass, Hans-Joachim Stuck, Manfred Winkelhock and many, many others as drivers. BMW turbo power was available for the 1984 season and Brunner invented the naked carbon fibre chassis that year. But when BMW retired their engines from the team("We can not risk our image with a company like this") it was all over with the first complete German Formula One car since Gurneys Porsche. Some time before that a story about Günter Schmid appeared in the PLAYBOY magazine under the headline The Don Quixote of Formula One and it had been written by star journalist Heinz Prüller from Vienna commentating each Grand Prix live on Austrian radio and TV station ORF for many decades. Schmid tried a comeback with his newly bought enterprise rial, again a wheel producer, in the years 1988 and 1989, made Gustav Brunner prepare a car looking so similar like a twin to the last Ferrari turbo, as well built by Brunner (after all the rial was coloured blue), signed up Italian Andrea de Cesaris, then the two Germans Christian Danner and Volker Weidler, for driving, but when the non-qualifications became regular and the Austrian designer had gone to Zakspeed before, this experiment failed, too. The only positive aspect I can see in all the activities of Günter Schmid: He gave Gerhard Berger his first chance in Grand Prix racing in Zeltweg 1984.
Erich Zakowski was born in East Prussia, since the end of World War II belonging to Poland. Once fled to the West he later founded a lucrative business with Magirus Deutz trucks produced in Cologne. In German touring car racing he had been the team principal to beat with his Ford Escort and Capri turbos sponsored by Castrol, Mampe or Jägermeister (liqueurs) and in the case of native Austrian Harald Ertl (who went to the same school as posthumus world champion Jochen Rindt) by sachs sporting (shock absorbers and leisure wear). Later he made the boss of his own engine shop, Norbert Kreyer, create a 1.5-litre-4 cylinder-turbo-engine, produced a selfmade carbon fibre chassis in his small factory and engaged British driver Dr Jonathan Palmer, who gave his Formula One debut during the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch 1983 in a third Williams, for the 1985 season. When a sponsor contract with the producer of cigarette brand West was signed even on the Good Friday the same year, Germany seemed to have the first Formula One team for decades on a solid although a pretty small basis. That Zakowski tried something that made big automotive groups like Renault and Alfa Romeo fail when producing chassis and engine by theirown, that became obvious, when turbo power was more and more restricted at the end of the eighties at fuel consumption as well as at the boost. For the coming era of normally aspirated engines Zakowski was looking for a partner to deliver him works-engines free. A difficult enterprise, because the positive image of the team at its beginnings had suffered a lot under the many non-qualifications of the last turbo powered year in 1988. For this reason Zakowski was only able to find newcomer Yamaha from Japan, a successful manufacturer of motor cycles for road and racing purposes and even organs, but at least no cars. Their V8 with five valves per cylinder did not catch during the first testing sessions and the drivers Bernd Schneider from the Saar Territory near France and Aguri Suzuki, the Japanese with the grandfather coming from India, prefering to live in french capital Paris, seldom were to be seen standing at the grid. At the end of the year West stopped paying and Zakowski did the job again he could always do the best way: touring car racing. The only thing that remained of Zakspeed in the year 1989 was the slogan of the tobacco sponsor. That was Let`s go West and a lot of fans from former GDR took it very, very serious after attending the Grand Prix of Hungary in Budapest in August that year.
The quartette of chaos is completed at least by transportation agent, Porsche test driver and sportscar racer Willi Kauhsen from Aachen not far away from the border of Belgium and the circuit of Spa-Francorchamps. The public opinion Günter Schmid mobilized at his beginning in 1977 with the ATS Penske, made Kauhsen, who competed before with Renault power in the European Formula 2 championship, pretty nervous. He simply wanted to be also a Formula One team boss and after a failed cooperation with Kojima from Japan (and Keke Rosberg as the driver!) - at that time the geographical distance between Asia and Europe had not been able to be spanned - Kauhsen ordered some aerodynamical studies at the Technical College of Aachen (the result was the overwide rear wing in front of the back axle later also used by Ferrari in Monaco and Long Beach in spite of the fact that there were different opinions on its legality). Then some mechanics went to the work-bench, took some aluminum sheets and puttered a monocoque chassis, of course without using something like technical drawings or designs. Kauhsen himself, retired from active competition long ago, made a diet to reduce his weight by seven kilograms to do the very first test session personally: On a lonely road the local police had cordoned off and with some enthusiastic neighbours, most of them children, as spectators. Now the whole nation knew at last how to define the continuation of the general respected term Deutsche Wertarbeit (Quality from Germany). The seriosity of the whole project was also demonstrated by engaging the former Williams driver Patrick Nève from Belgium, who brought his personal sponsors Coca Cola (that wanted to put advertisement for their mineral water Kinley onto the car) and Marlboro into the partnership. But when these companies had to notice that the F.I.A. in Paris did not see a penny of their toll for the 1979 season and there were rumours about an uncovered cheque, they ordered their driver to retire from the team , before their own image as sponsors was able to get damaged. The Italian Gianfranco Brancatelli was so clever to accept Kauhsens offer before former Ferrari driver Arturo Merzario, as a constructor very familiar with operating methods like these, bought the whole material to compete in the national British Formula One Championship, that was called Aurora Series after its sponsor, a model car maker.
With such a lack of professionalism there was not much to be done for the negative image of Grand Prix racing, in the most cases seriously influenced by the television under public law with its massive missionary spirit telling people every day what they should do or not. I remember absolutely clear the appearance of the new world champion James Hunt at a ZDF (Second German Television) - show presented by their former sports editor Hanns Joachim Friedrichs in December 1976. Hunt sitting in a colourful caravan wanted to express some compliments to his sponsors and asked Friedrichs gently for a few extra seconds. But Friedrichs , the man, who had learned his basic journalistic elements at the BBC in London after the end of World War II, who was ZDF correspondent at the United Nations and in Vietnam, too (where he had been wounded one time), he made Hunt suddenly stop talking. And he had him, who died of a cardiac infarction in 1993, at an age of only 45 years, not forgiven this scene as he expressed in his bestselling autobiography at the end of 1994, before dying himself of cancer in spring 1995. Friedrichs, later presenting the famous Tagesthemen newsmagazine and Europes TV journalist no. 1, refused the transmissions of certain Grandes Prix offered by the European TV system Eurovision for several times, because at the tracks there were seen too much advertisement banners the spectators should not be confronted with. At soccer transmissions the TV stations were less critical. Grand Prix racing often only took place on the television screen, except for the German round of the championship, when some guys had crashed fatally. Then the cynical comments and false informations changed each other.
Surely, the image of Grand Prix driving as a profession was a negative one in a Germany of the 68 generation, who often were able to remember the war or the post-war era. There were the dubious roles Mercedes-Benz and Auto Union had played during the time of the Hitler dictatorship. The Grand Prix driver not as a fair sportsman, but as the Aryan superman, instead of fighting for wins with his competitor, having the order to consider him as a brutal enemy to bring complete, if possible, fatal defeat to - that was the horrible example the Nazis had created. The regime spent incredible sums - there were roumours about six million Reichsmark - for the companies and their racing departments. The rivalry between Stuttgart-Untertürkheim and Eisenach had been provoked especially to get better results. Certainly Carraciola, Lang, Stuck and the corpulent team manager Alfred Neubauer (who had invented the pit signals) were no Nazis in spite of the fact, that the "Führer" enjoyed very much to share their company. Bernd Rosemeyer, married to aviatrix Elly Beinhorn, at the victory ceremonies rose his right arm more or less slovently than respectfully for the Nazi salutation and in the left hand he often had a burning cigarette. At official parties he refused to wear the uniform of the NSKK (Nazi Automobile Association). Manfred von Brauchitsch is the only one, who is still alive in 1999, after the war moved to the GDR, to Schleiz at the periphery of Germanys oldest circuit (founded in 1923, four years before the Nürburgring had been opened). He had been president of the Olympic society and by that provided with all those privileges officials do not have only in the system of the really existing socialism. Less than a decade after the end of the war the Silver Arrows came back to the tracks of the world , once again with Alfred Neubauer, but not with the star drivers of the pre-war era. The idols of the fifties were the ingenious Juan Manuel Fangio from Argentina, the not less talented Briton Stirling Moss, Piero Taruffi from Italy, Hans Herrmann, winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1970 partnered by Richard Attwood in a Porsche 917, and Karl Kling, the winner of the famous Carrera Panamericana in South America in the year 1952. Kling, an engineer par excellence, but charming as ever is, in a time of rising interest in Grand Prix racing caused by the Schumacher wins, an interview partner, who is welcomed in the television studios. Even at six o`clock in the morning he answers patiently the spectators questions in ARD TV (first German broadcasting system), live from the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart. In 1954 Germany became, under the rule of the legendary coach Sepp Herberger, soccer worldchampion, too, and the old man in the Schaumburg palais, the chancellors office, decorated them all with the Silver Bay-Leaf, the Federal Republic of Germanys highest award of honour in sports - the footballers and the Grand Prix drivers. These were successes the young state needed so much at the beginning of the economic miracle.
In the history of the Formula One Worldchampionship there were only two German drivers, who were able to win the title before Michael Schumacher came. For the others must be said: They have done their best, but they did not succeed. Partly there were mistakes made by their own, often a lack of professionalism, sometimes simply bad luck and in the classical country of touring car racing actually bad conditions. Indeed the German motorsport industry is as powerful as the British one (except Formula One !), if we look at the turnover in US-$, but in this country barely exist manufacturers to produce single seater racing cars and for this reason there is no infrastructure. Only BMW (with a monocoque chassis built by at the Dornier aircraft plant), Maurer (with the Bellof manager Willi Maurer from the family of the liqueur company Mampe) and TOJ (for Team Obermoser Jörg; a touring car and sportscar driver from Bruchsal near Hockenheim, who was the works-entrant for young American Danny Sullivan, the later Tyrrell F1 and Indy Car driver, with the sponsorship of Warsteiner beer) built acceptable cars for competing in the Formula 2 European championship. From Formula 3 I can only remember the teams of Derichs, Maco and Eufra (for European Formula Alemagne based in Ludwigsburg in the South of Germany). And in this large country only two permanent circuits did exist for many decades, the Nürburgring and the Hockenheim Motodrom, before the Motopark of Oschersleben (between Hanover and Berlin) and the Lausitzring (eastward from Berlin) were established in the nineties( both are prepared for Formula One), the Sachsenring near Chemnitz got a new face and with Lahr and Zweibrücken two new airfield circuits (like Swedish Anderstorp) were added.
The list of luckless operating German Grand Prix drivers begins with Rolf Stommelen. He had been works driver at Brabham, Surtees and later Arrows and between that there was the team dream (Ronnie Peterson) of Eiffelland. Nevertheless the greatest chances he had at Embassy Hill, but when he was in the lead for the first time in Barcelona Montjuich 1975 the rear wing collapsed and a catastrophe with deads and seripously hurt began. Some years later Stommelen died in a Porsche during a sportscar race in Riverside/USA - because of a broken rear wing.
Some month after Stommelens debut in Kyalamy 1970 with the second works Brabham BT33 (the first one Sir Jack drove himself) felt Hubert Hahne, a star in the BMW Formula 2 car, the necessity to become a Grand Prix driver and he bought a March Ford 701 and painted it silver, Germanys racing colour for many decades. But when he failed to qualify for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, because the car was "half a wreck", legal action began with a raving Max Mosley, one of the bosses of March, who had to wait a long while for his money. Hahne retired from the active sport, married the young actress Diana Körner and the BILD Zeitung, Germanys biggest selling newspaper, again had a phantastic headline about him.
Jochen Mass gave his debut in a Surtees Ford TS14 at the mass collision of Silverstone 1973, but he left the Edenbridge based team only after one year - as Stommelen before in a big quarrell. Three acceptable, but not brilliant years followed with McLaren. In an ATS he got serious leg injuiries during a testing session in Silverstone 1978, his time at Arrows looked much better, but it seemed to be that he wanted to end his career as Formula One driver. But in 1982 he surprisingly tried a comeback with Rothmans March, when he overturned himself into the spectators seats at Paul Ricard the same year, the retirement became definite. Mass remained a single victory in Barcelona 1975, when the race had been stopped after Stommelens accident and his involvation in the fatal accident of Gilles Villeneuve in Zolder 1982. Mass, the sailor (his ship Aquila Marina sank at the North German coast some years ago), balloon pilot and sportscar worldchampion, later became Grand Prix commentator for RTL (Radio Television Luxemburg, the German programme is based in Cologne) and after he was sacked there, for the ZDF. In TV spots he is advertising for beer - no Warsteiner anymore, but Brinkhoff`s.
Hans-Joachim Stuck, son of Hans Stuck, the King of the Hills (because having won so much hillclimb races) and Auto Union driver, himself a funny Bavarian, but very talented, ruined his career in cars like March, ATS und Shadow. The chance to replace Carlos Pace, killed in an air-crash in Brazil in spring 1977, in the Martini Brabham Alfa Romeo and to establish himself in Formula One, he was not able to take advantage of in spite of 2 third places and a lead (Watkins Glen/USA in the rain). But the victories Stuck realized in the March BMW Formula 2 car had been possible in Grand Prix racing, too, if Stuck, the funny guy, had operated more seriously under all aspects.
Hans Heyer, in the touring car of Erich Zakowski really successful, tried to enter the field in Hockenheim 1977 in spite of being not qualified in the Mampe sponsored ATS Penske, but this action remained the first and last one and that was the best solution for all being involved.
First also at ATS, later with the RAM team Manfred Winkelhock worked like a slave. Only 2 points were the result of very hard work for the master craftsman. In 1989 his brother Joachim tried to succeed in prequalifying with a French AGS Ford (for Automobiles Gonfarron Sportive) for half a year after Manfreds tragic death at a sportscar race of Mosport 1985. Later he became a touring car driver,too, and won the British championship in 1993.
The only German, who ever won an international championship in single-seater racing before Schumacher came, was Christian Danner, son of famous accident prevention research Professor Dr Max Danner from Munich, being himself once a student of mechanical engineering, in the 1985 Formula 3000 European championship. But in Formula One there were only teams like Osella, Arrows, Zakspeed and rial. At the end of the nineties Danner took Jochen Mass`seat in the TV commentating box of RTL.
The beefy concrete worker Bernd Schneider from the Saar Territory worked at Zakspeed for years, made a guest appearance in a Footwork Arrows and was test driver for their Porsche V12 engine. He drove at the CanAm circuit of Weissach near Stuttgart, built in times of a Mark Donohue, making even John Watson and Niki Lauda fear at their first tests with the McLaren Tag turbo in 1983.
Michael Bartels, in the 1989 German Formula 3 with stars like Schumacher, Wendlinger and Frentzen more or less inconspicous, in 1991 tried to qualify a Lotus Judd in a hopeless style and, of course with no result. More popular he became as the long year boyfriend of tennis queen Steffi Graf (until autumn 1999), who did a lot of promotion work for the pasta products of former Minardi driver Paolo Barilla ("The begin of a burning passion") by television spots, where she is completely dressed in black - the slave-like hands of the tennis star were substituted by those of a handsome model.
Only two German drivers did not let themselves push on the siding of touring car racing and also Karl Wendlinger from Austria was so clever to have a close look at that risk after the horrifying accident of Monaco 1994, but later he was not able to avoid exactly that. Volker Weidler, half a year a non-qualifyer in the rial in 1989, then sacked by Günter Schmid, went to Japan for their national Formula 3000 championship, became a great star with a fan club of his own there, even won the 24 Hours of Le Mans together with Johnny Herbert and Bertrand Gachot in a Mazda and had surely come back to the Grand Prix circuits a serious illness of his ears had stopped his career.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen, a Rhinelander like Schumacher, but with a very different education by his Spanish mother, more intelligent, too, and much better at the basic quickness, went - in contrast to Schumacher and Wendlinger - a way of his own in Formula 3000, but it seemed to be an absolutely wrong speculation by doing so. When he got out of work, without any further perspective, he began to do a job for his father, a funeral director, and drove the hearse. Later he went to Japan , too, got enourmously experienced as a test driver for the Bridgestone tyre company in a Tyrrell Mugen, before he was signed up by Peter Sauber for 1994 especially for this reason. Within a few races he became extremely popular for all those fans the narrow-minded world champion is much too petty-bourgeois even his former girl-friend Corinna is now Mrs Schumacher.
Wolfgang Reichsgraf Alexander Berghe von Trips was born on the castle of Hemmersbach near Cologne. After his matriculation exam he studied farming science, loved to ride his motor-cycle (there was even no alternative after the war) and later, at the time of the economic miracle, he worked as a tester for road cars for a great Sunday newspaper together with his biographer Dr Hermann Harster, a versed lawyer with multifarious journalistic ambitions. He was also involved in the promotion of young talents and as a constructor in Formula Junior, today comparable to Formula 3. As a racing driver he was very controversial at first, surely quick, but during a long time a lot of equipment had been damaged by him. It is true that Enzo Ferrari commentated a comparable situation with Gilles Villeneuve some decades later: "We can ever build new cars", but at that time he had fired a driver like that at once. But Ferrari, who once lost his first, legitimate son Dino (the illegitimate one is Piero Lardi working at the Ferrari works in a leading position) because of leukamia, "adopted" the young German count, considered him matured enough to win the world title, but engaged, as an equal partner, American Phil Hill being a rival in the own pit, because that was Enzo Ferrari, too: kindhearted but full of cynism at the same time. Twenty years later he did exactly the same with Gilles Villeneuve. Victories in Aintree and Zandvoort brought von Trips into the lead of the worldchampionship but Hill did not give up and therefore the Grand Prix of Italy had to bring the decision. But when von Trips, very early in the race, collided with the Lotus Jim Clark in the braking zone before the Parabolica curve, more than ten spectators were killed with him and the young Federal Republic of Germany was mourning about their Taffy they called him kindly and not only the ladies. Von Trips death was not the only shock for the nation in 1961: In Berlin the wall had been constructed and in Hamburg nearly 400 people drowned during the great tidal wave. Dr Hermann Harster later wrote the biography of Graf Berghe von Trips based on the tapes the count himself had talked on especially for this scheduled book and its title is: The Race Will Never End.
For nearly one decade, until Rolf Stommelen came, Germany had not got a single Grand Prix driver. But Rolf Stommelen, that might explain some of his problems, was not the first choice of Jack Brabham, who regularly made good experiences with his young team mates Denny Hulme, Jochen Rindt and Jacky Ickx. The man, Brabham wanted, was Gerhard Mitter and that had been planned long before, in the year 1969. The shy and modest technician, who drove a Formula One car a few times before, was works driver for BMW in Formula 2, but when at this car the steering broke at a very high speed during the practise for the German Grand Prix 1969 on the Nürburgring-Nordschleife, at the section Schwedenkreuz, where the inhabitants of the nearby villages had buried a killed Swedish soldier during the Thirty Years`War, Germany had lost a hope again. Later history told us: Gerhard Mitter was the man between von Trips and the other potential world champion - Stefan Bellof.
The station of the town of Giessen, about 100 miles apart from Frankfurt at the river Main in North West direction, is a little bit dirty building constructed out of bricks belonging to the time of steam engines and railway romanticism. At the kiosk in the dark hall the Bellof fans often bought Swiss motoring paper powerslide during the Maurer Formula 2 days, and, after reading it quickly, they entered their road cars, sometimes occasional BMW 2002s, and raced through the city at high speed. I often thought, pray that they would not have a big shunt, but an accident never happened. In 1984, when Bellof, often as the partner of the experienced Briton Derek Bell, won the Endurance Worldchampionship in a Rothmans Porsche 956, some kilometres apart a big party had been celebrated at the firm of his father, a body-maker. Stefan Bellof had scored his first worldchampionship points in the underpowered, normally aspirated Tyrrell Ford 012, came home third place in the wet Monaco Grand Prix behind winner Prost and Senna (in the Toleman Hart) after overtaking the Ferrari turbo of Renè Arnoux in a very spectacular manner in the Mirabeau curve, but before the season was over, all results of the team of former woodcutter and Jackie Stewart boss Ken Tyrrell were cancelled by the F.I.A. as the consequence of the team`s continued disregard of the technical rules. For that reason Bellofs performance is never shown in the official statistics and in those cases it does unofficially in brackets. In 1985 the Tyrrell team also got a turbo engine, even a Renault unit, but not the best at all and Bellof signed - top secret- an option at Ferrari at all. Then the 1000 kilometre sportscar race of Spa came at the beginning of September, when the story ended forever at Eau Rouge in a fierce battle with Jacky Ickx only some weeks after Manfred Winkelhocks death in Mosport/Canada. Never before the image of motor racing had been so bad in Germany than in those days.
Above the village of Burnenville, not far away from the place, where in 1966 Graham Hill and Bob Bondurant rescued a in a petrol-flooded, like a banana bent B.R.M.-cockpit caught Jackie Stewart, there is on a hillock, a wide pasture surrounded by trees and bushes. From this point you can watch at daylight far onto the old, originally 13 kilometres circuit, even at this time normal roads only protected by a few single barriers. We often sit there before the race in spite of the often bitter cold nights at the end of August and the campfire with some cans of beer discussing until the early morning. Our topic are not only, but very often, the good old days of Grand Prix racing, but Spa is not only a little bit romanticism in a world becoming colder day by day, it is at the same time a piece of originality of the Grand Prix competition , that had begun in French Le Mans in 1906 on dirty but especially prepared roads. By the sides of the old hotel of La Source, thats Tuborg advertisement was taken away when renewing the facade some years ago, there is, a little bit higher and nearly in the forest, a beautiful villa built out of natural stones with a terrace from that you can have an absolutely perfect look over the new pit lane, but also at the hairpin. At this location we stood at Saturday morning during the untimed practise session, a collegue from former GDR and me, the Casio pocket television in my hand and with each lap of the Jordan Ford green like a frog we were looking more breathless at the screen as small as a matchbox. Michael Schumacher is - at his Grand Prix debut- fastest until the Williams drivers Mansell and Patrese put their cars onto qualifying tyres for a last but successful attack. The circuit only 100 kilometres apart from his home town of Kerpen-Manheim (written with only one m ) he had only "driven" once before - with a mountain bike. I could not help to say: "This is the beginning of a world career", but the man beside me is sceptic: "Wait a little bit!" At least Schumacher became eighth at the grid and got one place as a gift, when Patreses Saturday qualifying time was cancelled, because the reverse gear of his semi-automatic gearbox was out of function as the stewarts had found out. Schumacher had a good start, but after some hundred metres he retired at the end of the long Kemmel straight because of a broken clutch. He had a chance more or less by a fluke but supported by Mercedes-Benz, because the regular Jordan driver Bertrand Gachot, a European speaking a lot of different languages and with roots in many countries of the European Union, had been sent to prison for some weeks, because he had done an offence in London traffic. Schumacher took a perfect advantage of this opportunity, but Jordan Grand Prix Ltd., the Irish team based in English Silverstone (Eddie and the Green Mashines - AUTOSPORT) he left as quick as he had entered. Benetton and Ford, a long and solid partnership in Grand Prix racing, had faster signed a contract with Schumacher then the so well-organized Eddie Jordan could think of.
Benetton is a company the chaos belongs to the system, the shocking of the public opinion is part of the enterprises philosophy. That has got its origins in the very beginning, when young Luciano Benetton brought the bright-coloured pullovers made by his sister to the customers by bike. Later a nearly perfect franchising system had been developed, the products are advertising and shop equipment (these are in neutral colours!) at the same time. Benettons worldwide most popular affiliated company, Benetton Formula One Ltd. in Enstone/United Kingdom, having its origins in the shrill Toleman Hart team of the early eighties, is completely involved in the tradition of the owner group, that advertises with Aids sufferers, human bones and the T-shirt covered with blood of a dead Bosnian soldier, not ever for the pleasure of the dealers or the customers being aware of their individual images. The burning adventure of Hockenheim 1994, when Jos Verstappens car suddenly caught fire during refuelling, the permanent rumours about technical manipulations, Schumachers disqualification as the winner of Spa 1994, but above all the disrespecting of the black flag in Silverstone the same year, caused a lot of public attention not planned before, but welcomed as a free advertisement in television and print media otherwise had to pay a lot of money for. During this long and very hot summer 1994 with not sufficient news on the market Germany had 2 stars in the media, who appeared more frequently on the television screen than the most politicians: Sammy, the mini alligator, who disappeared from his master in a lake people regurlarly prefer to swim in somewhere in the Ruhrgebiet, hunted even by sharpshooters, and Schumi, the man, who did not stop at black with the powerful F.I.A. boss Max Mosley, a former Formula 2 driver and March director, a polyglot lawyer and physicist in one person, in the role of his most dangerous enemy. Black Rider (Der Schwarzfahrer) was the most popular German short movie in 1994, a warning of the daily racism with the a great sense of humour, when in Lübeck there was a Synogogue on fire for the first time since 1938.
Michael Schumacherhad never been interested in things like these until then. He also did not take part in the last parliament elections, because living in Monaco and later in Switzerland. His opinions about capital punishment and masturbation, about politics and the nation he had expressed more or less clearly in the PENTHOUSE interview of winter 1991, but thank God the story had not so much readers. There were the drunken hooligans, who want to make the forests of Hockenheim burn and intending to murder Damon Hill. And there are the leading television companies RTL and ZDF , together controlling 40% of the German market, without any word of criticism for their star bringing them spectators, popularity and therefore very big money. FOCUS, the Munich news magazine of former yellow press journalist Helmut Markwort, who at first published the love story of Alain Prost with Princess Stephanie of Monaco in one of his publications many years ago (Ron Dennis, the McLaren principal, was not amused about), cultivates Schumachers positive image as well. But when DER SPIEGEL gave exclusive details about the past of Schumachers manager and Formula 3-team boss Willi Weber, there was a lot of nervousness among many people and also n-tv (for news television), the small but exquisite company from the Eastside of Berlin, a fellow company of CNN, does not believe everything that Schumacher announces on RTL.
Schumacher can not really hide his narrow-minded birth, his petty-bourgeois visions of the world, but exactly that would have made him so popular in Germany, in spite of the fact he is working very hard to correct this image all the time. There are the deficits on the intellectual field , the general education and the sympathetic understanding, and a lot of people of the same age with comparable home and education can look at a much more positive personal development. The standart of Emerson Fittipaldi, being as well 25 years of age, when becoming world champion for the first time, Schumacher never had been able to reach.
But after Imola 1994, the Challenger catastrophe of Formula One, making the system itself breaking down within 24 hours by the fatal accidents of Roland Ratzenberger and Ayrton Senna, Michael Schumacher is matured enormously. About his potential as a driver impressed by analythic thinking, not often by strict abstraction and clear definition (in this case he is very different to Ayrton Senna; if it is a disadvantage or not I do not know) and a respectable driveabilty there is not question about. He became number one in the world without having yetthe will to, because Senna, the king was dead. But Schumacher showed the behaviour of a champion in spite of the fact not yet having won the title. To do that, only was an official duty, but no simple job as well, because his team producing one scandal after the other balancing at the limits of the juridical and moral responsibility, was no help for the middle-class man in the cockpit. Telling lies and being not correct Michael Schumacher is absolutely against and this quality his rivals all do respect. The days are over, when Schumacher learned by heart the answers to interview questions(that had been put on a sheet of paper by the journalists one hour before!) to announce it like an average yuppie politician staring into the camera. And his statements about Damon Hill, made without reflecting of in the situtation of real combat, he later sat into the right relativity in a fair and self-critical way. His first public words as a world champion in Adelaide 1994 were a requiem for Ayrton Senna. Some people learn their lesson secretly, some do it publicly, many do it never - Michael Schumacher learned it under the pressure of the world and the whole nation being young and old at the same time - and looking only at him. But it is special tragedy in the career of Michael Schumacher, that there is always the danger of falling back into the old mistakes, as he had shown by his attacks against Villeneuve in Jerez 1997 or Coulthard in Spa 1998 or Suzuka 1999. The bomb can explode everywhere and anytime, in spite this man is a husband and a father of two small children...
Rules und values can not be recognized so clearly in the colourful, twinkling world of modern Formula One. They are hidden too much under the cover of sponsoring and the all-mighty present of the mass media. I am often thinking of a certain self-limitation being basically better for the whole system (its vulnerability was perfectly shown by Imola 1994), but I know exactly, that this must remain only wishful thinking. No way, the "good old days" were not so great in reality, and what happens when they, like a natural phenomenon, suddenly return we know since the 1st May 1994 at latest.
For Ayrton Senna Grand Prix racing ever had been business with some sport in it, for Wolfgang von Trips the legal continuation of the knights games in the Middle Ages and for Graham Hill a sport and an industry. For the multi-national companies it is an economic competition, technological-organisational basic research, but also medium for advertisement as I said before. But for millions of people of all nations it is also entertainment to forget their day by day sorrows. "You allow millions of people something they are never able to do themselves", said the young lady, a journalist, to the Ferrari star driver played by Yves Montand and Steve McQueen in Le Mans :"Racing is living and the rest is waiting" - Grand Prix racing from the point of view of artists not better to be expressed, because it is not really important driving faster than others. Michael Schumacher is part of this tradition and he also brought the athletic element to Grand Prix racing. His mentality is in no relationship with the great German drivers of the pre-war era, he is not Trips and not Bellof, and not really the new Senna: Michael Schumacher from Kerpen-Manheim, youngest double-worldchampion of all times and, as a Ferrari driver, the best paid racing driver ever, an idol like Max Schmeling, Franz Beckenbauer and Boris Becker. In spite of that the Germans are not ever happy with him, and he with them, too, I think. But did not say Gustav Heinemann, the man who became the citizens president in the history books: "There are difficult nations, one of them is Germany"? When Heinemann was in power little Michael Schumacher sat in the cockpit of his baby carriage. In Germany that was a time of rapid chances in society and the the 68 generation did so much damage to it never to be repaired until today. But it was also a time, when artists and intellectuals had a lot to tell us. Wanderer, if you come to Spa is a story by Heinrich Böll, Rhinelander and Nobel Prize winner. He meant Sparta. Certainly.
(This article first appeared in spring 1995 under the title: ... and if you come to Spa - Michael Schumacher: A Career in Germany)
Photos: Savanah Geer/researchracing
© 2000 by researchracing
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