An Open Letter To Sebastian Vettel, Post-2017 Season.

Standard

Dear Sebastian,

You’re unbelievable, you know that?

Honestly, I don’t think I like you very much right now.

Where do I even begin? So you started the season with a win in Australia, and officially broke Ferrari’s drought. That made me hope, so much. The kind of hope that is beautiful, yet dangerous; because while it can move mountains, it can also lead to monumental heartbreak.

Was this the year, finally? Part of me was scared, but you looked so sure, so confident. Gina, your car, was in her element. You took another win in Bahrain and steadily racked up points and podium finishes.

Monaco was weird. I was happy you won but also felt uncomfortable because Kimi somehow felt played by the team. My heart was so confused. But then again, judging from your behavior, It was clear that you had nothing to do with what happened, so I gave you a pass and moved on.

Let’s get it out of the way and talk about Baku and THAT incident. What on earth went through that brain of yours to make you pull that move? I was bemused, and aghast, and so deeply disappointed. It was an opportunity to win that blew up in smoke because of a lapse of judgment in your part. You lost your cool, and things got ugly. I couldn’t even defend you on social media after that. You were in the wrong, and there was no way for me to rationalize that. If I could turn back time, I’d do everything in my power to stop that moment of madness from happening. Sigh.

We all make mistakes, and thankfully, you were not punished harshly, but of course it became a giant blot of stain in your title charge. As early as that point, critics were already questioning whether you deserve the title at all after that…infamous nudge.

Then there was that minor disaster in Silverstone. The Mercs slaughtered the Ferraris in qualifying. And of course you and Kimi just had to get nearly identical tire punctures in the last lap. I wanted to kick things and flip tables but miraculously, you both managed to pit and get back to the track to take the checquered flag. Sure, finishing 7th wasn’t ideal, but every single point counted now that Lewis was making a charge of his own.

History was on your side. Records show that you have not yet lost a title battle that you’ve led. I wanted that record to stand, and although you snatched that win in Hungaroring again from Kimi, I held on to the thought that so far, only the Michael Schumacher has managed to win the Hungarian GP and the Driver’s Title in the same year, and if any other driver can duplicate that rather strange record, then it’s you.

Things seemed to be going smoothly, until Monza, when you first lost the WDC lead. You couldn’t fight for the win that weekend but I couldn’t take it against you. Strangely enough, I wasn’t that worried yet then, I was pretty sure you’d snatch back the lead soon enough. And when you preached to the Tifosi on the podium in Italian, no less? My heart melted in a puddle of emotions. You are truly one of us. You are the driver Ferrari deserves.

But then, the Asian leg happened. So much potential, so much promise. But only heartaches ensued. That Singapore pole was spectacular, I yelled so loudly when you snatched it. You said on team radio that you wanted that one badly, and it showed. You went all in, and it paid off.

It still pains me to think about that Night Race weekend, the weekend where what happened on that track forced me to feel and face all the pain from real life. I was so sad but could not even cry. It was the type of sadness that was beyond tears. Tears could not properly express the desolation that washed over me. It got so bad that I took a break from social media, I could not bear to look at anything F1-related.

Things marginally got better in my life enough for me to regain some calmness and catch the Malaysian GP, but of course there was another disaster in Qualifying that sent you to the back of the grid. The wolves were already salivating at the thought of your title charge starting to crumble, but in my heart, I knew that you’re up to the challenge. And we did indeed see Sebastian The Road Runner that raceday. A charge from the back all the way to P4 that was a sight to behold. It was clear you were not going down without a proper fight, like the Champion that you are.

I had to miss the Japanese GP due to an appointment, but when I checked my phone a few hours after the race and was greeted with various iterations of “Nooooo!!” and expletives, I knew another disaster had befallen on you.

By the end of the Suzuka weekend, my (external and internal) tears have run out. A strange calm took over me and I decided to let fate be. Que sera, sera.

It pained me so much to see how sad you were after Austin. For the first time this season, I sensed your despair. The title was slipping away, and staying in contention was proving to be a Herculean task.

However, you weren’t quite ready to throw in the towel. You pulled an astonishing pole position in Mexico. That fightback in the race? It was so worth staying up until 4:41am for. Unfortunately, finishing P4 was not enough and the Driver’s Championship was decided there. Still, I was so proud of you for the effort you put in. Seeing you so dejected after the race was difficult, but you had enough grace and class to congratulate your opponent and to focus on the positives.

And then you gave us that Interlagos win. Ferrari’s first win there since 2008. I was imploring all gods that will listen for them to let you hang on to the win. You need it. I need it. The Tifosi need it. My stomach was churning, my legs were doing the jiggles, but I could not take my eyes off from the tv. And you did it.

Abu Dhabi was, for lack of a better term, an anticlimax. Both Championships have been decided and the Mercs dominated a nondescript race yet again. I stayed mainly to see you on the podium, and to see the new logo of F1 unveiled.

After all of that, came the…emptiness. the realization that it is finally over.

I had to say goodbye to the 2017 season. I had to say goodbye to Gina, the loveliest and feistiest Ferrari I’ve seen in ages.
I had to say goodbye to your title charge.

I had to look at you and assess just how I really feel.

So yes, I don’t like you very much right now because “like” is not the appropriate term to describe how I feel about you. I don’t like you as a racing driver–I love you, actually. I love you as a racing driver. And I mean that in the most platonic, respectful way possible. It’s a kind of love fueled by gratitude, and admiration, not just for your talent but for you as a whole, as a person.

I love that you’re passionate about what you do, that you put in 100% of yourself, criticisms be damned.
I love that you respect and protect the team. I love that you foster a family atmosphere.
I love that you don’t blame anybody else when the car fails.
I love that you stay away from mind games and unnecessary politicking.
I even love how you’re still such a big kid and that you are, by and large, a monumental dork.
I love that you’re imperfect and that you both own and own up to your flaws.
I love that while you remind me of Schumi, you are very much your own person, too.

Throughout the year, your title challenge with Ferrari was a bright spot in my oftentimes dismal and challenging life. You represented a form of escape, something to look forward to when things aren’t going right. Every emotion–good or bad–was heightened because I wanted it so much for you. We wanted it so much for you.

Let me be clear: I’m in no way, shape, or form, angry at you. How could I be when I know in my heart that you did your absolute best? I never expected you to be perfect or be some kind of Ferrari Messiah, I wanted you to be yourself. You are enough.

You may not have a tangible trophy to hold aloft this season, but there’s plenty of invaluable lessons learned. Setbacks are only prologues to bouncebacks. And you’re pretty damn good at that.

As I’ve said on Twitter: Sometimes in life, you have to go through the 1996-1999 Schumi in order to get to the 2000-2004 Schumi. You will get to it, and soon. I trust you to not give up, because we, your supporters, will never give up on you.

Just be you, Sebastian. We wouldn’t change you for the world. I know I wouldn’t.

Rest up and recharge. We will go again next year. And you know what? I have all the faith in the world that you will win that title with Ferrari. Get ready for it.

Sincerely,

Marj.

.

.

Grazie, Seb.

Advertisements

Forza Billy.

Standard

It’s strange how racers and racing fans alike are all well aware of the dangers and risks involved in motorsport, and yet during the actual race day, all of that are shoved to the back of our minds. It’s all going be to okay. Let’s hope the race is exciting.

This past weekend was pretty much just like any other normal race weekend–until it wasn’t. F4 as a series is not televised in my shores, but as majority of my Twitter following are fans of multiple racing series, I get to be updated whenever I check my timeline during race weekends. And when something major happens, it’s impossible to miss. As soon as I read that a big shunt has occurred in Donington Park, which involved young British racing driver Billy Monger, my mind went into automatic, “Oh dear, I hope he’s 100% okay”. I refused to watch any footage of the crash, as my timeline was still fretting over the length of time it was taking for the youngster to be extracted from his vehicle. Some hours have passed, and finally Billy was taken to the hospital, and for a while, Twitter finally got to breathe a sigh of relief.

But then the awful news broke that Billy Monger sustained such serious injuries from the crash which resulted in both of his lower legs being amputated. I am barely familiar with this kid prior to that fateful moment but I felt my heart shatter in a million pieces when I read that update. Imagine having your dream taken away from you in a blink of an eye. How do you recover from that…?

In a matter of hours, a crowdfunding page was set up to help Billy and his family cope with the impending financial stress brought about by the accident. It was at 16% of the total goal when I donated. I immediately shared the link to my Twitter timeline and asked my followers to help out if they can. It saddened me a little that I couldn’t donate more, but I crossed my fingers and hoped that the motorsport world and beyond will come through and reach the target.

(Link to the crowdfunding page:
 https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/billymonger23 )

And reach the target we all did–and beyond! As of writing, the crowdfunding page is at 245% and has nearly 16,000 supporters. That’s with 117 days to go until the deadline. Numerous motorsport personalities have donated and expressed their support, and the massive outpouring of love and concern from all over the world is just amazing.

However, what got me into writing this was this tweet:

I never anticipated just how much those three simple words could have such an effect on me.

Here was a kid, all but 17, who got thrown a massive curveball by Life, but he is already dusting himself off without missing a beat.

And then there’s this little girl named Millie Davis who stood out among the sea of support on his crowdfunding page:

Photo grabbed from Twitter.

Do you ever have one of those days (or weeks, or months, or years, or lives) when you feel lost and overwhelmed and you feel like the universe won’t ever give you a break and you have no idea how to be yourself again?

And then you read about people like Billy Monger and Millie Davis and you realize just how inconsequential some of your worries are, and how you’re wasting your energies on the wrong things.

They may still be children but boy, have they schooled me on Life well and proper.

I am humbled by Billy’s fortitude. His bravery is no less than inspirational. He is a complete stranger to me but I am already invested in his story–a story of triumph, hope, and optimism.

It is far from over yet, there will be more challenges in the chapters ahead but I am not worried about him. Do not, in any way, feel sorry for Billy. Underestimate him at your own peril. He will pull through. He will teach us how to find the strength within us when all seems lost. He has already scored a massive victory and he’ll only score more along the way.

Form is temporary. Class is permanent.

Survival is an art and we should all be so lucky to have an ounce of Billy’s character in us.

I cannot wait for the day when Billy Whizz takes the checquered flag yet again. 

Bounce back soon, Billy. We are all behind you.
.

Serendipitweet.

Standard


Twitter is my favorite social media platform, just so you know.

I’ve been on Twitter since 2010, but I made my public, once-anonymous account only five years ago, mainly for the purpose of promoting my blog posts and preventing myself from spamming my real-life friends and acquaintances with my constant Football/F1/MotoGP/Tennis commentaries, ramblings, and observations.

My point, anyway, is that this is a story of how Twitter surprised me in the best way possible.

I love F1, that much should be obvious by now; and when I feel strongly about something related to it, I immediately let my thoughts be known, first via Twitter, and then on a subsequent, oftentimes lengthy, blog post.

Recap: Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg won the 2016 World Driver’s Championship (hooray). However, five–yes, five–days later, he announced his retirement from the sport. What the heck, right?

My mind went into overdrive (pardon the pun). I poured my heart out on an open letter to him. Usually, my open letters have been reserved for my favorite drivers, but I have grown rather fond of Mr. Rosberg over the years and I felt it was only right that I should say (nearly) everything I wanted to say to him in a farewell letter. If for anything, at least I can attempt to encapsulate how a lot of F1 fans around the world feels about Rosberg and his rather interesting F1 career.

I published it on the 3rd of December. I posted the link on my Twitter page the same day. I got some compliments and several blog views over the next few weeks. And then the interest seemed to dwindle. That was fine. That should have been the end of the story.

However, for some reason, I left the blog post link as my Pinned Tweet. I thought, maybe more fans will somehow find this. I’ll just change it once the new season starts.

Then, on the 3rd of February, I interacted with the account Parc Ferme F1 (@PFF1) and asked him something about Sebastian Vettel’s supposedly revolutionary new visor during testing. For some reason, whoever runs that account must have looked at my profile and saw my Pinned Tweet. That account then retweeted the link to more than 8,000 followers. Another account, MSportXtra (@MSportExtra), must have seen the retweet and in turn, retweeted it again to more than 3,000 followers. I started getting lots of Likes and Retweets and Replies. I thanked everyone as best as I could and then went to bed, thinking, “Oh it’s nice how that Open Letter is getting attention again. I hope Rosberg fans like it.”

The next day, I went out to run errands, and while I was having a waffle snack break, I checked my Twitter and found that my Nico Rosberg Open Letter Tweet was still spreading its way through the F1 community. I got tweets from lots of fellow fans all over the world, but two tweets stood out for me: One was from the F1 producer of the NBC Sports Network, who gave me a kind review and tagged Mercedes AMG F1 on his tweet saying that the letter should be passed on to Nico Rosberg. The other was a tweet from Georg Nolte, one of the members of Nico Rosberg’s management team, who called my post a, “fantastic & emotional letter.”

My mouth dropped open (thankfully, I’ve finished my waffle). The letter was literally one person away from Nico Rosberg himself. I thanked Mr. Nolte for taking the time to read it and then cheekily added that I hoped Nico Rosberg would be able to see it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get, right? I thanked the rest of the Twitter people (tweeps?) who took the time to tweet me about the letter and then closed the app, ready to go about the rest of my Saturday.

When I got home, I flicked through my new interactions and saw a “Nico Rosberg” among them. To be honest, my first thought was, “Oh look, a fake account pretending to be Rosberg read my blog post.” But then, I quickly scanned the rest of my mentions and saw all the extreme reactions and OMGs. Wait, could it be that THAT was the real, actual Nico Rosberg? I rechecked the tweet and stared at it for a full minute. Yes, yes, it was the Nico Rosberg with the blue tick.

I put my phone down for a moment and took deep breaths.

The 2016 Formula One World Champion actually took the time to read my open letter to him. Nico Rosberg actually laid eyes on my blog. Holy cow. Holy guacamole. How cool is that?!

While of course I was unbelievably pleased that the letter somehow reached its intended recipient (only 2 months after it’s been published!), a part of me got quite embarrassed at the thought of Nico Rosberg actually reading about my F1 ramblings and real feelings about him. I mean, this isn’t exactly a mainstream racing blog; who would’ve thought a legit racing driver, let alone THE reigning World Champion, would deign to even lay eyes on it? I remember covering my face with my hands and groaning out loud, wishing I took more time to polish it and make it…better. Yes, that’s me, always the overthinker. After a while though, I decided to let it be and just let go of my doubts. Shake it off, shake it off.

When at last I regained a semblance of composure, I finally replied to his tweet, thanked him for reading it and asked him to come visit my country, anytime he wants.

As soon as Rosberg sent that tweet, my blog hits and views have risen steadily. I’ve gotten lots of kind comments on Twitter, especially from the legit Rosberg fans who seem to be genuinely happy for me (they’re a good bunch). Though a part of me expected to get some trolling comments, none have been made so far (whew).

While it’s not exactly a huge, life-changing moment, that incident became quite a bright spot in my recent life and I still smile whenever I think about it.

So for the nth time, I would like to thank the random strangers who decided that my open letter was worth reading and sharing. I still can’t fathom what made Nico Rosberg check it out but I will always be grateful for that act of graciousness. Even if he never got to see my letter, my sentiments remain the same and I mean every single word I wrote. I am honestly humbled and overwhelmed by the response I got and the replies that I’m still getting. I suppose the best way for me to truly express my gratitude is to remain as authentic as I can be, which means that my F1 rants, raves and snark will continue to grace my Twitter timeline and this blog will be kept alive as long as I still watch sports.

For anyone else out there who wants to write and share what they feel–whether it’s F1-related or not–my advice is to go for it. Do not underestimate the power and magic of your thoughts and feelings. Go for it with all the humor, optimism, and enthusiasm that you can possibly give.

Serendipity is everywhere and sooner or later, it’s bound to find you.
.

.

.

(P.S. Just in case you’re lurking Nico, let me know when you’re coming to Manila!)

  

An Open Letter to Nico Rosberg.

Standard

(I’ve been procrastinating writing this. But then of course everything changed in a blink of an eye last December 2, so it got fast-tracked. Here goes nothing…)

Dear Nico,

Let me begin by saying that you are not one of my absolute favorites in Formula One. I’m just keeping it real.

But allow me to explain myself, if I may:

I liked you well enough when you burst into the F1 scene in 2006, but by that time my heart was already starting to invest in a certain “Baby Schumi” named Sebastian Vettel, and for some reason, I found you too polished, too privileged, too…slick for my liking. I prefer drivers with an “edge” to them, and you looked straight out of the perfect, pretty, prep school boys’ catalog.

You had the blessing and the curse of being a son of a Formula One World Champion. Will you ever live up to his name or are you all hype? I expected you to do well in F1, to cause a stir just enough and get a few wins here and there; but I didn’t really peg you to be The Next Best Thing. It’s weird because I knew from your racing CV that you’re talented; I just never saw enough spark and hunger in you back then.

Or maybe I should have looked at you more closely.

You spent years as one of the midfield racers, occasionally showing moments of brilliance but never really bothering the top dogs. Vettel and Hamilton easily shoved you aside to grab and share the spotlight that was supposed to be yours. You had podiums and fastest laps, and made exciting moves every now and then, but it wasn’t until you moved to Mercedes to partner the returning Michael Schumacher when I started to really “see” you. I fully expected Schumi to trounce you, but surprisingly, you came out ahead of the matchup, even giving Mercedes their first win of their “new” era. It’s not an easy task to regularly beat a driver of Schumacher’s caliber, but instead of being annoyed, I found myself getting fascinated by your progress. Who is this Rosberg I’m seeing that I was all but oblivious to during his Williams years?

As fate would have it, you were the first ever F1 driver I met in person. You exceeded my expectations, by the way. I was just curious to see you at first but I ended up staying at the event to try to get an autograph. You were nice, and kind, and sweet to us waiting fans. And yes, I have to admit that I was shocked at how good-looking you are in the flesh. But mostly, what I remember is how you treated us fans and how you made us feel. You even apologized to all the other fans who didn’t get to have your signature because you quickly got whisked away by security to your car. Not necessary, but appreciated, nevertheless. All the other fans who’ve met you only have good words to say about you, and that speaks volumes. No wonder your fans are extremely loyal and overprotective of you. I met you again in 2015 and you were as nice and pleasant as ever, you even joked and laughed with me about my bracelet that you mistook for something else. That is why from that 2012 moment on, you jumped from relative obscurity to become my “favorite non-favorite”. Does that even make sense? What the heck, you’re smart, I know you’ll get what I mean.

I am not a Hamilton fan, so when he moved to Mercedes to take over the seat Schumi vacated, I had hoped you’ll continue your good form and show him who’s the boss at Silver Arrows. But fate had other ideas, and although Mercedes skyrocketed to ruthless dominance, Lewis got the better of you. I went, “Where is the Nico that turned me around? Why is he getting sucked into the drama and the mindgames?” I vividly remember getting confused by all the frustration I feel on your behalf.

2014 and 2015 were awful. I wanted you to win the Championship so badly even I surprised myself. That electrical issue during Singapore 2014? I internally wilted. That infamous gust of wind in Austin 2015? I chanelled my inner Tyra Banks and yelled, “I was rooting for you! How dare you?!” at my TV. Do your critics have a point when they say you lack the psychological strength to become F1 Champion? I refused to believe it, despite your snafus and the injustices you suffered. I knew you had it in you. Somewhere in that blonde, polished mien, I knew there’s grit and hardiness that’s waiting to be unleashed.

And you turned it all around. Quietly. Masterfully. I believed yet I still greatly underestimated your bouncebackability and you proved me wrong. Tenacity? Check. Patience? Check. Consistency? Check. Grace under pressure? Check.

You fought back and never gave up on yourself. Amidst a barrage of criticism and blatant bias from fans and media, you revealed what you’re truly made of. When practically most expected you to wither and choke, you stepped up and delivered. The moment you crossed that finish line in Abu Dhabi was the moment you slayed all doubts and slaughtered your own demons in one fell swoop.

I was so proud of you then. So ridiculously proud of you.

And then of course you dropped that certain retirement bombshell–5 days after you won your 1st F1 title. What. The. Heck?!

I was suffering an almighty migraine that night and I remember looking at my mobile phone screen, staring at the words, “Nico Rosberg announces his retirement” and willing them to go away or be some kind of a twisted joke. But alas, it was the cold, hard truth. A myriad of questions from my brain demanded immediate answers: Is he ill? Was this predetermined? Who knew about this? But the biggest question was, “WHY?”

To be honest, I was half-astonished and half-annoyed. The annoyance stemmed from my selfish part: Who would challenge Lewis now? Why didn’t you want the honor and privilege of defending your title? Why did you not give your fans a chance to bid you a proper goodbye?!

Finally, your official statement was released, and although it was expectedly eloquent and heartfelt, it lacked the answers the selfish part of me needed. However, I was truly touched by your words and I legitimately wanted to shed tears by the end of it.

You’re truly something else, Mr. Nico Erik Rosberg. Just when I think I have you all figured out, you come out with ways to surprise me further.

How can I fault you when you say that you are retiring to prioritize your family? How can I stay mad at someone who listened to what their heart is saying and followed the path they wanted, and not just what others expected? There is immense bravery in realizing that at times, quitting is necessary in order to truly win.

What a way to distinguish yourself from other F1 Champions. Chapeau.

I still can’t wrap my head around it, but one day, I will wake up and accept that you won’t be in F1 starting next season. And that for the first time in 23 years, F1 won’t have a defending Champion on the grid. It sucks to lose one of the good guys, but that’s the reality me and millions of other fans just have to deal with.

On behalf of my 2006 Self, I would like to wholeheartedly apologize to you, Nico. I’m so sorry. I was wrong. So wrong to judge you and to stereotype you back then.

You had one hell of a rollercoaster ride in F1. You chased your ultimate dream to the edge of madness and succeeded. In a circus-like world where the narratives were almost always not to your advantage, you took control of your own storyline. Nobody can take away what you have achieved. Ever.

You may not be one of my absolute favorites, but know that you are one of the F1 personalities I truly admire and respect. You’ve made me a fan. I AM a fan. I will truly miss you in F1.

Any chance you can do a World Tour any time soon so your fans can give you a proper farewell, by the way? Please consider. You are always welcome to visit the Philippines.

Now go on and enjoy life outside of Formula One. Cherish your amazing parents and your incredible wife and daughter. Spend time with your wonderful friends. There’s still so much ahead for you and I can’t wait to find out what you have up your sleeves in the future. 

You are a fighter, a gentleman, and a class act. You are and always will be a worthy Champion, not just in racing, but in Life.

Danke, Nico.

.

.

.

What A Champion: The mic drop that shook the F1 World.

Sebastian Vettel vs “The World”

Standard

​The proverbial dust may have settled by now, but unless you are purposely avoiding all Formula One news, you may have possibly heard about the biggest controversy from the 2016 Mexico GP. Nope, the musical chairs-like exchange of the last podium place only took 2nd place in the shock-o-meter, because the spotlight belonged to Sebastian Vettel’s Team Radio broadcasts.

Shall we call it…Sweargate?

Recap: Vettel had not-so-pleasant words said to fellow drivers Felipe Massa and Max Verstappen, but the cherry on top was when he told Race Director Charlie Whiting to “F*** off”. Twice. Man, that took some balls.

And Bernie daresays German Champions are boring?

Predictably, the F1 World exploded in monumental judgment over his antics. It was the perfect occasion for the Vettel Haters to reawaken and preach his unworthiness. Not like he hasn’t said dirty words over Team Radio previously or had a history of saying things that got him in hot water, unless we’re supposed to pretend that all F1 Drivers are and should remain as emotionless robots.

Was Vettel in the wrong? Yes.
Was I offended? No.
I was equal parts amused and mortified by his…verbal tirades; but really, there are far more substantial issues about F1 that need to be addressed and put into the forefront rather than Sebastian Vettel’s motormouth.

For those who called for a race ban: Calm down. Words are powerful but he hasn’t endangered anyone.
For those who think he is less of a Champion because of his swearing: Seriously? Give me a solid reason to support your argument. Last time I checked, this is motorsport, not Finishing School.
For those who called him names, questioned his right to be a role model for kids, and generally attacked his character: You have a point to some extent, but it’s not like he has branded himself an angel in the past. Besides, he was just being his authentic self by letting his emotions get the better of him. Get real and stable your high horses.

Vettel has apologized, he has taken the penalty, he has seen and experienced the consequences of his actions. I doubt he’s losing sleep over it. Has he learned from it? Hopefully. Will he do it again? No one knows. I for one do not want him to be changed nor restrained by convention; I like him for being a tough, moxie-fuelled racer, and my support will not waver just because of a few foot-in-mouth incidents.

Isn’t there a Championship Battle happening next weekend? If for anything, we should be (perversely) grateful that Vettel gave us something to talk/debate about before this frankly unremarkable season comes to a close. Unfortunately, It’s high time we move on and make this merely an anecdote within the Volumes of Sebastian Vettel’s Colorful F1 History.

.

You do you, Seb.

Michael Schumacher: Meeting The Man and What He Means To Me.

Standard

You have no idea how exasperating it is when I talk to someone about Formula One (sometimes at length, with mostly me talking) and they reduce the whole conversation to, “So you have a crush on Michael Schumacher?”

The short of the long answer is: NO, I do not have, and never had, a “crush” on Michael Schumacher. And I mean that in the best, most respectful way possible.

But in order to better explain my point, let me retrace my F1 history.

I began liking F1 as a prepubescent tomboy, when boys were still gross/annoying and I only wore skirts because they were part of my Catholic school uniform.

I chanced upon his name on a scaled model of his Benetton F1 car. I was a full-fledged Benetton kid/snob, so I immediately fell in love with that colorful car. And then I saw the name by the side.

Michael Schumacher. That sounds like a badass name, my preteen self thought. Surely someone who has a name as badass as that and who also gets to race an equally badass car, should be legit badass in real life, right?

And so my F1 story progressed. I scoured the newspapers, went to the library to peruse the magazines, watched the international sports news for snippets, until I finally managed to watch the races on TV. My memory is hazy on when I put a face to his name, but by that time, what he looked like mattered little to me; I’ve already claimed him as my Racing Spirit Animal.

Years went by and I fell even more in love with the sport. It was my awesome little secret, growing up in a basketball-crazy nation. I officially defected from the Enstone team the moment Schumi moved to Ferrari, a little bit sad to leave Benetton but secretly delighted that his new main color is my favorite: Red.

Even during his “barren years”, I was never really worried; I knew in my heart that he’s destined for more championships and that he would end up as the greatest racing driver ever.

It never really occurred to me that it’s possible for me to meet him. During the time when budget airlines were still scarce and I was restrained by the duties of finishing my schooling, attending an F1 race was nothing but a silly pipe dream.

However, everything changed when my mother met Michael Schumacher. Yes, my own mother actually met Schumi a decade ahead of me.

Fate has a quirky sense of humor, at times.

It was during a work trip that coincided with the Malaysian GP. Everything was spur-of-the-moment and a bit of a blur. She didn’t get to have a photo with him but she did get to shake his hand and chat with him a bit. My mother had nothing but good words about him. Most notably, she said he’s really humble and you wouldn’t think you’d be talking to a sporting superstar by the way he put her at ease. “He’s very kind”, she’d repeat over and over again.

I knew he wasn’t the cold, ruthless, heartless, arrogant bastard/machine that the media proclaimed him to be, I thought with a mixture of relief and smugness. I chose my Racing Spirit Animal correctly! Ever since then, I began to think that maybe, just maybe, I stand a chance to meet him, too. Imagine my disappointment when he announced his retirement from F1 in 2006. My dream was shattered into tiny pieces.

Three years later, as I sat alone in the office, I found out that he’s returning to Formula 1, this time as a driver for Mercedes GP. I’m not ashamed to say I let out a whoop and danced like a lunatic. The dream is alive again!

I finally watched Michael Schumacher race an F1 car in person when I attended my 2nd GP: The 2010 F1 Night Race in Singapore. I remember standing there on the viewing platform by Turn 14 as he drove past, my mouth unabashedly open and my eyes might as well have had cartoon hearts on it. To say it was a joy to see him race again would be an understatement. I felt like I was on some sort of pilgrimage, paying respects to my racing god.

However, It wasn’t until the 2012 F1 Night Race when finally, FINALLY, the dream of meeting him came to fruition. With the help of a fellow F1 (and Kimi) fan, we waited patiently outside the Paddock Entrance/Exit to try to catch the drivers after Qualifying. To be honest, I didn’t really expect to meet Schumi that night (or day, as it was already past midnight in Singapore then); I mean, why would he choose to exit the paddock by feet when he could easily leave via a chaffeured Mercedes car? Also, I was exhausted, hungry, sleepless–I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much. Numerous drivers came and went and I even managed a few autographs. There was a lull for several minutes so I stepped back from the throng of fans to drink some water and hopefully catch a breeze, but then there was this gasp from another fan that my ears miraculously picked up.

I was still rooted to my spot when I saw my fellow fans stir. I couldn’t understand why there was a sudden…reverential silence outside the paddock. “Who’s that?” I asked out loud. My friend had no idea and moved towards the crowd. All of a sudden, someone went, “Michael!” which sent my brain into overdrive.

“Holy shit! Michael? THE Michael Schumacher?! No. What? Seriously? NO WAY!!” my brain screamed.

I surged forward and true enough, there he was, just starting to sign for the small(ish) group of fans gathered behind the barrier. Hilarious but most of them had this “Oh my gosh, it really IS Michael Schumacher” look on their faces, and I bet that not all of them are even fans of his. I wish I had taken a pic of that moment but at that point, I was so awestruck that my motor skills were close to zilch. I managed to take a pic of him, and then proceeded to internally freak out just as he was slowly inching towards my side of the barrier:

There he is! It really is him!

“Shit. What do I do? What do I say to him?”
“Stay calm, FFS. Whatever you do, don’t scream ‘I LOVE YOU, SCHUMI!’ and scare him off.”
“You can do this. Just breathe. Be polite and look him in the eyes, okay?!”

Schumi is getting closer!

A picture of me taking a picture of Schumi. As you can see, I’m already having trouble controlling my camera’s zoom function out of nerves. Ha!

At last, he was right in front of me. The Man Who Was Responsible For My Formula 1 Love Affair. The world may as well have stopped spinning. The concept of time disappeared.

I meekly held out the orange collapsible fan I had the other F1 drivers sign to him. “Michael, please?”, I managed to say in a prim voice that sounded alien to my ears.

“Sure!” He replied cheerfully.
He held a part of the fan while signing, and paused in the middle of it to look at me, probably because my hand was shaking out of nerves and multitudinal feelings. He gave me such a reassuring, “It’s okay, don’t be nervous”-smile and I will never forget the kindness in his eyes. I wish I could have talked to him and told him how important this moment was to me, but I was so overwhelmed that I could only manage a, “Thank you, Michael. Good luck!” along with an “I’m trying my best not to spontaneously combust right in front of you, please forgive my lack of eloquence” smile.

Schumi looked me in the eyes once again, smiled and replied, “No problem at all. Bye!” gave me a farewell wave, and moved on to a group of Japanese girls who immediately and happily encircled him.

I finally got my Schumi autograph!

I couldn’t believe that just really happened. I just had a legit face-to-face interaction with him. And breathe.

I vaguely remember sending out a text blast to my friends screaming in all caps that I’ve met Schumi. I bet they weren’t amused to receive a text at such an ungodly hour but hey ho, no regrets.

In all seriousness, the thing about Michael Schumacher is that he really had that aura of being “somebody” without being arrogant or too self-aware about it. He was kind, he was patient, he had time for everyone who was there, he was polite, he was grounded. “He wore his greatness with grace” was how I described him to my friends and anyone who would care to listen to me tell the tale of how I met him.

Before, I wished I’d have done more: I wish I talked to him, asked him stuff, begged him not to retire yet, shook his hand, took photos with him, asked for a hug, gave him a gift or a letter, the list goes on and on. But then, I’ve realized that I shouldn’t devalue the moment by dwelling on regrets. That moment was how it should have been and that is the beauty and uniqueness of it.

Not every racing fan got the opportunity to meet him and I shall forever hold that memory and experience dear in my heart.

We all know by now what happened to him after he left F1 again, this time for good. There is not a single day where I wish and pray for his wellness and recovery, as I’m sure thousands (maybe even millions) of his other supporters also do.

He’s a man who shared his passion with thousands of others and became an inspiration to so much more. Mine is one of those lives he had changed and affected in some way; I will always defend him and wish him well, no matter what.

It was a pleasure and an honor to have been in his presence and whoever said never to meet your heroes is absolutely wrong because they’ve obviously never met Michael Schumacher. 

He’s more than a racer. He’s a kind, charitable man, a great friend to many and a once-in-a-lifetime type of person.

While there is still a fighting chance, I will never give up. We will never give up.

Keep Fighting, Michael.

An Open Letter to Max Verstappen.

Standard

Dear Max,

You are such a…show-off, you know that?!

Just kidding. Or am I?

Here you are, at 18 years old, just casually leading a lap and eventually winning the F1 Spanish Grand Prix, while during the same age, I was still in architecture school, trying to figure out whether to be a modernist or traditionalist and bemoaning the fact that I have so much math to learn.

Life is not fair. Or something like that.

Just what makes you so darn special, anyway? Is it because you seem to have the unwavering cool of Kimi Raikkonen, the in-your-face moxie of Sebastian Vettel, the dogged determination of Fernando Alonso and the overall racing aplomb of Michael Schumacher, all wrapped up in your 18-year old body?

Those are just figures of speech, though. We all know that you’re a Verstappen through and through.

Strange but I never really paid that much attention to your father Jos when he was still racing in F1. And to be honest, I knew very little about you too prior to your arrival in F1. But, what an arrival it was. Your 17-year old self promptly split the F1 circus and fans into two camps: The “He’s far too young” conservative camp and the “Let him have a go!” excitable camp. I was firmly in the latter one, by the way, as I am of the belief that if one is good enough, then he/she is old enough. Or maybe I just like the possibility of another maverick/trailblazer in F1 a lot.

You didn’t just talk the talk, you walked the walk. You didn’t quite have a fairytale first season but you more than proved on track that you deserve to be racing against the top drivers in the world, regardless of your age.

And in last week’s Spanish GP, all the stars aligned for your benefit.

However, let’s back up a little bit. Prior to that race, you sparked debates left, right and center yet again because of your “sudden” promotion to Red Bull, which effectively demoted another young driver (and podium finisher at that), Russia’s Daniil Kvyat. Again, people questioned your “readiness” for a drive at such a top team (“He’ll be decimated by Ricciardo!”/”He needs to mature further!”) and complained at how shabbily Kvyat was treated to advance your career. Even I was mildly shocked at this mid-season team switch, but chose to reserve judgment until at least after your first race with Red Bull.

And what a first race weekend with Red Bull that was.

Outqualifying both Ferraris on your first try? How very dare you. When most people expected you to get passed during the start of the race, you held your bottle even as the highly-fancied Mercedes drivers took each other out during the first lap. Your composure belied your age, and with each passing lap that you led, it was clear that a star was being born right before our eyes.

Just to keep it real, I wanted Kimi Raikkonen to win the race ahead of you, but the way you defended your position and kept your cool made me go, “Damn, son!” Who on earth would begrudge you with that win?!

Youngest ever driver in F1? Check.
Youngest driver ever to lead a lap? Check.
First Dutch driver to win a Grand Prix? Check.
Youngest ever Grand Prix winner? Check.
Respect, man. My hat is well and truly doffed.

Why does that win (and the broken records) matter so much, anyway? Perhaps because amidst disarray, rapid decline of viewership and interest, and a glaring one-team domination the past few years, you’ve managed to bring a spark of magic into the sport yet again. And who doesn’t love a bit of magic during trying times?

You made people sit up and take notice of Formula One yet again. News outlets heralded the fact that a teenager made racing demigods look ordinary and fallible that race. Kids worldwide would have went, “Hey, if Max can do that, then so can I!”

Has it all sunk in yet? Don’t worry, it eventually will.

So just be yourself, Max. Now that you have that massive monkey off your back, you can focus on what you do best: racing. Keep proving your critics wrong and smashing as many records as you can, and most importantly, have a ton of fun while doing so.

I can’t wait to see what else you have up your young, Dutch sleeve.

So go on and be a show-off all you want. Own it. I expect nothing else.

Regards,
Bouncebackabilitrix

PhotoGrid_1463322246658

P.S. Please don’t get all big-headed from now on, okay? I am still looking forward to the day when Mick Schumacher kicks your arse on track. 😉