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

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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.

Introducing The F1 Class of 2015: Game Of Thrones-style.

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After I started watching the HBO Masterpiece Game of Thrones, I now categorize people into two sections:

1. People who love Game of Thrones and; 2. People who have no idea yet how much they’re going to love Game of Thrones.

The show, adapted from George R.R. Martin’s series of books titled A Song Of Ice And Fire, contains drama, sex, wars, power plays, politicking, violence, and hedonism, among others. What’s not to love? Also, doesn’t it sound a lot like the world of Formula One that we love (and hate)?

And so this season, I have decided to imagine F1 in terms of the GoT World. Shall we get to know the main characters who shall contest the Iron Throne…er, the 2015 WDC?

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LH

House Hamilton

Led by: Lord Lewis Hamilton

Liege to the Realm of Mercedes

House words:

“Only God Can Judge Me.”

He is the current ruler who the rest will do their best to dethrone. His swagger is immeasurable. His temper flares, unpredictable. And he’s too #Blessed to care what other people think of him. Stay pressed.

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NR

House Rosberg

Led by: Lord Nico Rosberg

Liege to the Realm of Mercedes

House words:

“The Pretty Remembers.”

Beneath that blonde gleam is steel. Valyrian steel. Don’t provoke him and make him channel his inner Lannister, this heir to the 1986 F1 WDC is both beauty and brains and he knows how to play this game pretty damn well.

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DR

House Ricciardo

Led by: Lord Daniel Ricciardo

Liege to the Realm of Red Bull Racing

House words:

“We Do Not Frown.”

This Aussie’s biggest, and possibly most baffling weapon in his armory, is none other than his ability to maintain a smile upon his face. Do not be fooled by it and be lulled into thinking he is a racing pushover, for you just might wake up his alter ego, the honey badger.

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DK

House Kvyat

Led by: Lord Daniil Kvyat

Liege to the Realm of Red Bull Racing

House words:

“A Russian Always Pays His Debts.”

He may be young, but you would not want to mess with this one. His teenage looks belie the ice (vodka?) in his veins, and while it is easy to dismiss him as one of those entitled, backed-by-wealth racers, he has already shown flashes of brilliance that neither money, nor political influence, can acquire.

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SV

House Vettel

Led by: Lord Sebastian Vettel

Liege to the Realm of Ferrari

House words:

“The Finger Is Coming.”

Having been dethroned after ruling this racing kingdom for four straight years, Sebastian has switched allegiances and is now ready to take back what was once his. Can he channel his inner Targaryen and restore House Vettel’s prestige? Watch out for the Finger, it may have been down, but it’s certainly not out.

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KR

House Raikkonen

Led by: Lord Kimi Raikkonen

Liege to the Realm of Ferrari

House words:

“Racing. Fishing. Screwing.”

Way before his now infamous quote, “Leave me alone, I know what I’m doing.” the verbose (not) Finn has already made it known what his life priorities are (actually, that’s what he said Finns pretty much do). And who can blame him? Sounds like a life truly worth living. Carry on being you, Kimi.

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FA

House Alonso

Led by: Lord Fernando Alonso

Liege to the Realm of McLaren-Honda

House words:

“Scheming Strong.”

There is no one more savvy on the grid when it comes to politics and psych wars than our beloved Fernando. He makes hardcore politicians and champion chess players look like amateurs compared to his tireless tactics. Could he be F1’s very own Peter Baelish, aka Littlefinger? Think you can stay one step ahead of him? He’s already plotting your downfall as you read this. So good luck. And better leave him space.

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JB

House Button

Led by: Lord Jenson Button

Liege to the Realm of McLaren-Honda

House words:

“Get A Grip.”

Our Jenson is like a Tyrell—rich (in racing talent), popular and attractive but seemingly lacking in ruthlessness that is necessary to claim the throne in not-so-perfect conditions (i.e, not having the ideal/dominant car). His time may be running out soon so he’ll want to up the ante, lessen the groans and grind it out each race. And with a teammate like Fernando, it’s more than necessary for him to watch his back!

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Williams F1 Driver Studio Images. January 2015. Felipe Massa. Photo: Williams F1 (Copyright Free FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY) ref: Digital Image WILLIAMS JAN1240 Edit House Massa

Led by: Lord Felipe Massa

Liege to the Realm of Williams Racing

House words:

“Uncrowned. Unbent. Unbroken. For Sure.”

He was World Champion for a few precious seconds in 2008, until…he wasn’t. Still, despite a change in teams, this peppy Brazilian has not given up on that crown and is still actively contributing to the number of “For sures” in every article/press release.

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VB

House Bottas

Led by: Lord Valtteri Bottas

Liege to the Realm of Williams Racing

House words:

“See Me Soar.”

Because he is the new Flying Finn. Get it?! Besides, we should know by now that Finns would rather show than tell.

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NH

House Hulkenberg

Led by: Lord Nico Hulkenberg

Liege to the Realm of Sahara Force India

House words:

“As Tall As Talent.”

He stands out in the paddock for more than just his height, and yet he is still waiting for that Eureka Moment (i.e, a top team to sign him up) to arrive. Nico is like a Lord in the Vale: Well-regarded, yet often overlooked and vastly underestimated.

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SP

House Perez

Led by: Lord Sergio Perez

Liege to the Realm of Sahara Force India

House words:

“I Don’t Know Nothing.”

People are quick to criticize Sergio when he makes on-track mistakes, but they forget that he was a podium finisher twice in his young F1 career now and has proven he can dice with the best of them.

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MV

House Verstappen

Led by: Lord Max Verstappen

Liege to the Realm of Scuderia Toro Rosso

House words:

“The Seed Is Strong.”

Father Jos may not have set the world of F1 alight, but the son has already set the record for being the youngest-ever F1 driver in history at the age of 17. Max has been touted by pundits and insiders alike to be the 2015 Rookie to watch out for. Premature hype? Watch Lord Max prove his critics wrong.

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CS

House Sainz

Led by: Lord Carlos Sainz Jr.

Liege to the Realm of Scuderia Toro Rosso

House words:

“Fire In (Spanish) Blood.”

He is not the offspring of the Carlos Sainz for nothing. And he has already shown that he is not scared of going wheel-to-wheel with veterans and newbies alike. Could this hombre be out to dethrone Fernando Alonso as the Great Spanish Hope? I smell a n F1 Kingslayer in training…

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PM

House Maldonado

Led by: Lord Pastor Maldonado

Liege to the Realm of Lotus

House words:

“Ours Is The Notoriety.”

You know you’ve made it into F1 Infamy when you have your very own website dedicated to your on-track snafus: http://www.haspastormaldonadocrashedtoday.com

Nevertheless, let us not forget that this is the last driver to have won a race that is not from Red Bull, Ferrari, Mercedes or McLaren. There is clearly talent there, but hey, good on Pastor for owning his notoriety so well that it’s only a matter of time before critics can’t use it against him anymore.

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RG

House Grosjean

Led by: Lord Romain Grosjean

Liege to the Realm of Lotus

House words:

“Mistakes Are Wind.”

Who are you calling “1st Lap Nutcase”? Romain has surprisingly shed this infamous nickname this past couple of seasons and has emerged a calmer, more…subdued racer. But to be honest, more than a few fans are missing the ballsy Romain of old. Lets’ hope he finds that precocious balance between calm and ballsy this year and regains a valuable place in the pecking order.

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ME

House Ericsson

Led by: Lord Marcus Ericsson

Liege to the Realm of Sauber

House words:

“Stealth Is Wealth.”

Hands up if you still remember what Ericsson achieved last season and what team he drove for. Anyone? Well, what is important is that he is still on the grid, waiting for that one chance where he can do something spectacular that will make the racing world remember his name once again.

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FN

House Nasr

Led by: Lord Felipe Nasr

Liege to the Realm of Sauber

House words:

“It Is Known (I Am My Own Felipe).”

It is not easy to enter F1 when the name Felipe is automatically connected to Massa, but this seasoned young racer is already debunking the “there can only be one” memes out there with his early results. Can he sustain this good fortune and win the Battle of Felipes this season? Stay tuned.

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WS

 

House Stevens

Led by: Lord Will Stevens

Liege to the Realm of Manor GP

House words:

“Now My Race Has Begun.”

After a lot of…roadblocks and difficulties, Stevens has finally made his proper F1 debut, and already had a race finish under his belt! Now the question is, until when can he extend his stay and can he do the impossible and fill the boots of Jules Bianchi?

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RM

House Merhi

Led by: Lord Roberto Merhi

Liege to the Realm of Manor GP

House words:

“A Start Is A Start.”

His future in F1 is as unknown as Jon Snow’s parentage, but perhaps Merhi can take comfort in the adage, “Enjoy the present, for it is a gift.” Take it one race at a time, and let’s see where that leads…

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Which House will win the F1 Game Of Thrones 2015?

All I know is that: All Men Must…Race.

 

 

Project of the Day: My DIY “Lego” Lotus Kimi Raikkonen (And Some Rather Unexpected Cameos).

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The “Lego” versions of Ferrari Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes GP Michael Schumacher have been two of the most popular posts on my blog, and this is actually quite a long-overdue project as I’ve received several requests for it a long time ago. So finally, I’m pleased to share with everyone the Lotus GP version of “Lego” Kimi Raikkonen:

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Looks like “Lego” Lotus Kimi doesn’t look too impressed with the Proposed 2014 Car showed to him…

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He doesn’t want to talk about it, though, so he went hiding behind a barrier…

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However, a certain F1 Legend managed to find him and corner him for a chat…”Lego” Mercedes GP Michael Schumacher!

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Before things get three shades of awkward, the “Lego” version of myself–let’s just call her “Lego” Bouncebackabilitrix–entered the scene to ask the 2 F1 Champions for some photos…

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“Lego” Schumi had to go, but luckily, “Lego” Kimi stayed for some small talk…

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MAsksK2

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Sneaky, sneaky “Lego” Kimi!

But wait, it didn’t end there, as a “ghost” from his past has somehow resurfaced and quizzed “Lego” Lotus Kimi for one last time on his F1 future…

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Silly season has officially gone into overdrive, ladies and gents!

Would you like to see me attempt to do more “Lego” F1 drivers? If so, which ones? Leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter!

*For further details on this crafting project, please check this post on my other blog, Marjitecture.

Ruthless Rants, Raves and Reflections: The Non-Standard Issue F1 2013 Preview.

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Every year, I make it a point to write an introductory post on the members of the F1 grid, but in a different and unexpected way. This year, I’m having a bit of a trouble completing it (don’t get me wrong, it’s still going to be bouncebackably awesome, I assure you), and I realized that what’s holding me back was the mixed bag of emotions that I’m harboring towards the upcoming season. I need to let it all out and lay my cards on the table before I can move on, and so this shall be the outlet for that.

I’m not an objective F1 fan. Just thought I’d put it out there. If you want a so-called objective, detailed and technical analyses on the new season, then you can move on. At least I’m not like a lot of legitimate journalists who claim objectivity and yet reek of bias like they’re doused with some class C-imitation perfume. Also, I will not make concrete predictions because I’m not a fortune-teller and I prefer to adopt the ‘Que sera, sera’ attitude this season. Will it work? Maybe not, but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.

Now let me get this out of the way: I am incredibly, unequivocally sad that my all-time favorite driver Michael Schumacher will not be racing this season, or…ever. It has been months since he has announced his retirement and yet, I’m still teetering on the ledge of denial. I suppose the finality of his decision will fully sink in on the first GP but for now, I am still wondering on whether I will be 100% emotionally-involved this season.

Before I digress any further, here’s my own brand of an F1 2013 preview:

Red Bull Racing:

Barring their annoying over-protectiveness with their car’s rear parts during winter testing, they still look quite strong and solid, and I reckon they will still be the favorites to win the Constructor’s title–that is, if they manage to avoid any cockfights between their drivers. The so-called “god of aero” Adrian Newey will still be the designer to beat. Sebastian Vettel seems to have matured significantly after winning his 3rd WDC, and if he can carry-over even half of the form he had in 2012 to this year, then his Australian teammate Webber will have a Herculean task of outperforming him. While some fans appreciate the standard “driver equality” PR drivel, we all know that the team’s golden-haired, blue-eyed boy really is Vettel. So better give 200% of what you’ve got, Webber, for this may be your last year with the team and you might as well give your potential future employers a good show.

Scuderia Ferrari:

I sometimes find it painful to write about this team mainly because while I still consider myself a fan, the truth is that I’m not 100% emotionally-involved in supporting them anymore. Having said that, I do like and admire Fernando Alonso’s racing moxie and I believe that he’ll still be Vettel’s biggest rival for the WDC yet again. His teammate Felipe Massa needs to realize how incredibly lucky he is to have kept his job for 2013, and he can start repaying the team by finally getting over his multi-year racing rut, stat. Sadly, Alonso is the clear numero uno and so Massa’s main task is to make sure that he maintains status quo and offer his…full cooperation. The fight for the Constructor’s title against Red Bull may be slightly closer this year, but it is interesting to note that the Scuderia has already enlisted the help of the legendary designer Rory Byrne in designing their 2014 contender. A sign of desperation or an advanced masterstroke? Time will tell.

McLaren:

For the first time in 5 years, they will not be The Lewis Hamilton Team, and for that, my sometimes-irrational dislike towards them has already significantly decreased. Sergio Perez from Sauber was confirmed as the new driver just days after Hamilton’s departure, and not a few eyebrows were raised. Will the Mexican be able to take the pressure of the highly-corporate world of McLaren? Can he fill the shoes of his predecessor? Will he even become a serious Championship contender? I have my doubts, but then again, his teammate Jenson Button is also notorious for needing a “perfect car” to achieve notable results, so in this regard, it will be fascinating to see how the dynamics between these two will play out. Also, will the team back Button more for the Championship by virtue of seniority, or will they solely depend on the results? At least for now their two drivers have already followed each other on Twitter, and that’s like, half the battle, isn’t it?

Mercedes GP:

Lewis Hamilton shockingly left his “racing home” McLaren to take up a staggering offer from Mercedes. The move left a bad taste in the mouths of some fans, especially since it was played out in the media that he was signed behind Michael Schumacher’s back, effectively pushing him out of the team and into permanent retirement. Some Macca fans called him a traitor, while some sadly surmised that he must have had enough of McLaren’s highly rigid rules and regulations. What ever the real story is, Lewis will be watched like a hawk this season, as he tries to prove that his risky move was the correct decision. And let us not forget that he will renew his “rivalry” with ex-GP2 teammate Nico Rosberg, who has been with the German outfit since 2010, and might just be the de facto team leader. This, in addition to the massive personnel restructuring that the team has undergone in the off-season, will make it very engaging to follow Mercedes, as the so-called “Three-Year Project” has come and gone and it is now the crucial sink-or-swim time for them.

Lotus GP:

2012 was a year of clear contrast between their 2 drivers: Romain Grosjean suffered several high-profile crashes and shunts which earned him a race ban and most certainly did not endear him from his fellow drivers, but he also notched podiums and significant points for the team. Then there’s Kimi Raikkonen, who was absent from the grid for 2 years but came back like he was never away—easily scoring points, podiums, a win and finishing every lap barring 1 throughout the whole season. It was almost too good to be true and my fear is that 2013 will see the Finn have some reliability issues with the car, and heaven forbid, a few retirements in the mix. Then again, that’s part and parcel of racing, and we must remember that he’s had his share of those even in his WDC-winning year at Ferrari, so we must not expect a carbon copy of his 2012 season. Raikkonen will definitely be up there in the Championship fight, it’s just a matter of having the car’s cooperation and sorting out his qualifying performances. As for Grosjean, I expect the Frenchman will be a tad “tamer” in his approach to racing, and I believe it will be possible for him to get a few podiums and maybe even his first win. It seems strange but the combination of the poker-faced Finn and ever-smiling Frenchman is working quite well, and I shan’t be surprised if the Enstone outfit does get the coveted-3rd place in the WDC for this year.

Scuderia Toro Rosso:

Strangely, I always seem to forget this team and their drivers whenever I make an F1-related list. It can’t be a good thing when I remember the likes of Marussia and Caterham better than Red Bull’s sister team, no? Perhaps it’s because post-Vettel era, the team has been on a steady plateau in midfield, and while their drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo are more than half-decent and have shown traces of brilliance on-track last season, they badly need to step up their games and show that Toro Rosso is more than just a midfield contender. After all, this is a team that is not afraid to switch drivers mid-season—and with the talks that their two drivers are not “friends” anymore, this may turn out to be quite a turning point for the team.

Sauber:

This team that nurtured talents such as Raikkonen, Massa and Heidfeld is one of the very few teams in F1 that is difficult to dislike, but they confounded many by letting both their 2012 drivers go—Sergio Perez was released to go to McLaren and Kamui Kobayashi’s contract was not renewed. However, the signing of the alleged-Ferrari and Red Bull target Nico Hulkenberg from Force India signaled the team’s intent to improve on their 2012 performance, and might just be the most serendipitous move of the year. The German is joined by GP2 alumnus Esteban Gutierrez, a rookie who has the misfortune of squaring off with the on-form Hulkenberg and filling the shoes of his fellow Mexican Perez in the team.

P.S. Based on their numerous pre-season team engagements, the 2 drivers seem to be getting along swimmingly, and we all know that Sauber has a history of concocting unintentionally-hilarious PR stunts/events, so I personally cannot wait to see what they will make these two do over the course of the season.

Williams:

Pastor Maldonado may be scarily-unpredictable on-track, but the fact of the matter is that he gave Williams their first race win in ages last year and for that, he is now the clear leader of the team. I do not expect him to drastically change his driving/racing style, I reckon his win will have given him tons more motivation and let’s admit it, his crazy on-track reputation has got us all keeping our eyes on him during those frantic race starts, yes? Finally, 2012 test driver Valtteri Bottas will get the chance to prove if he really is worth the type and the famous Twitter hashtag as he takes over Bruno Senna’s seat for this year. I actually think his numerous FP stints in 2012 will greatly aid him and he just might become the best-performing rookie of 2013.

Force India:

They made us wait for eons on who will be their 2nd driver that by the time they did it, it became one big anticlimax. Well done. I have nothing against Adrian Sutil, he’s actually a decent and proven driver. If anything, I’m actually sort of pleased that he came back just so we can see how awkward his on- and off-track encounters with ex-friend Lewis Hamilton will be. As for Paul DiResta, well, he’d better find someone or something to light a match under his bum, or risk being outperformed yet again by a teammate. You won’t land your dream McLaren drive by getting whipped, boy. Overall, I have no strong feelings for this team but I do hope they get over the reported financial troubles and get to stay on in F1.

Caterham:

They not only changed the shade of green of their car’s livery, but they dropped both of their experienced 2012 drivers as well. Marussia’s 2012 rookie Charles Pic joined them and 2012 test driver and GP2 veteran Giedo van der Garde was promoted to a race seat. I honestly do not know what to expect from this team this year, as these two relatively-inexperienced drivers have the task of “defending” their team’s WCC 10th spot, which was delivered by their more- experienced drivers last year with practically sweat, tears and blood. I suppose what will be of most interest is how they will fare against their fellow backmarker team Marussia, especially since there is the element of the Giedo van der Garde vs Jules Bianchi rivalry in the mix.

Marussia:

Just when we thought Force India had the biggest pre-season cock up by massively delaying their 2nd driver announcement, Marussia went one step lower by making a last-minute driver switch. Brazilian Luiz Razia was hired and terminated within 23 days without even getting to test their 2013 car, all because of a sponsor of his that failed to hand over a payment. Shortest F1 career ever? Possibly. Ruthless and humiliating? Very. Razia was replaced by the 2012 Force India test driver and Ferrari Academy alumnus Jules Bianchi, which fuelled the rumors even more that Marussia will switch to Ferrari engines come 2014. And then of course there was the issue of them dropping Timo Glock to accommodate the so-called “pay drivers”, which incidentally includes their first confirmed 2013 driver Max Chilton, who did not win the approval of a lot of the hardcore F1 fans who believe that only his father’s money and not his talent got him the coveted seat. Meeoow.

As for the results of winter testing and what we can glean from them, the short of the long is that testing times mean absolutely sod all. So for those getting terribly excited about it, take a seat and help yourselves to a chill pill.

End of rants, raves and reflections.

The good news is that the Australian GP is only a few days away, and while we still won’t have a clear picture on where the teams and drivers stand after the race, it is historically-impossible for Melbourne to give us a dull GP weekend. Albert Park always delivers cracking, heart-in-your-throat, what-the-hell-was-that types of races, bless its cotton racing socks. So take a deep breath, and before you know it, the sheer madness of Formula One 2013 shall be upon us yet again. Ready? Let’s be honest, could we ever really be?

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An Open Letter of (Non-) Farewell to Michael Schumacher.

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Quo vadis, Michael?
image from tumblr

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Dear Michael,

How do you say goodbye to someone you don’t want to let go of?

I’ve put off writing this for as long as I could—in fact, I’ve considered not writing this at all, but there are those rare moments when I allow my heart to rule my head, and this is one of them, for sure.

The simple fact is that I am a fan of yours—but no, I shan’t be as assumptive nor as bold to declare that I am your “biggest fan” as I am sure there are countless supporters of yours out there who are far worthier of that title than I am—and I just want to tell you that the 19 years that I’ve supported you have been nothing short of incredible. In every sense of the word possible.

People ask me all the time if I support you because you won so much, and while a part of me initially gets annoyed at the thought of being categorized as a mere “bandwagoner”, I get that for so many out there, it’s not an easy task to fully comprehend from as little as a few sentences why one becomes a true-blue, ride-or-die Michael Schumacher fan.

See, I support you because you have this spark, this grand passion, this steely determination and ruthlessness that just won’t quit. You are intelligent, cunning, and controversial. There is no middle ground when it comes to you—you are either loved or despised. You have an unbelievable talent that you pushed to the extreme limit. Your genius lies in never seeking mere adoration or recognition, but the continued hunt for personal challenge and fulfillment. You’re a vanguard. A game-changer.

You gave me a priceless love for Formula One that will remain in my very core forever. You were a part of the myths of my childhood and the reality of my adulthood.

You taught me that self-belief and mental strength is half the battle. You were never perfect, you committed errors and trespasses that will live in infamy but that made you more human to me. You taught me that in order to experience true triumph, one must taste defeat first.

You were an outlet for my emotions—from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows, I’ve experienced it vicariously through you.

You never pretended to be fearless nor flawless, but you always dared. And for that, I shall always wear the Schumacher Supporter badge proudly.

When you first left the sport in 2006, I was crushed—I thought the opportunity to see you in person on a race weekend was gone. But still, the flicker of hope in my heart that you will return never died, and you did, and it was one of those days I remember very clearly in my head.

It has always been a dream of mine to meet you in person, but I never thought that moment would arrive in a rather unexpected way.

By the way, how dare you veer away from the scenario of our first meeting in my head? The moment you sauntered out of the Paddock Entrance in Singapore, I was well prepared to be ignored, I was ready to rationalize your aloof behaviour and to simply accept the fact that an icon like you doesn’t always have time for us mere mortals. But there you stood, in front of me, and you were completely nice and sweet and smiling and grounded and accommodating and…normal. You had that aura of being somebody, and yet you were approachable and relatable. Interacting with you up close was so surreal that I almost lost the power of speech. You’ve just effectively raised the bar in meeting celebrities in person, because if the Michael Schumacher is that amazingly kind in person, then I don’t care whoever the hell they are, they have no excuse to be rude or unkind to fans. Ever.

Perhaps someday I can see you again, and maybe then I can finally string together more than a few words and get to talk to you without being so darn star-struck. Forgive me.

But you know what they say, what goes up must come down. I shall not recount anymore the numerous circles of hell I went through once I found out you have formally announced your final retirement from Formula One racing several days after that, but suffice to say that I was heartbroken would be the understatement of the century.  It was 2006 all over again, but this time, the finality of it all made it infinitely worse.

And yes, I will accept your decision…in time. You know those stages people go through during trials and tribulations: Denial > Anger > Grief > Acceptance? I never went through anger because honestly, how can I be angry at someone who has given me, and millions of other racing fans, so much? I may be oscillating between denial and grief, still. Allow me to just wallow in sadness for a little while longer, and then I will get my chin up (no pun intended!) and soldier on. But it shan’t be easy, because there is only one you and you are such a special talent that may not be equaled nor surpassed in Formula 1 ever. The fact that the current World Champion took up racing because you have inspired him speaks volumes, doesn’t it? This term is grossly overused in recent times but only a very select few truly deserves it, and you are one of them: Legend. 

So go on, Michael, and leave.

Leave us all in wonderment of how one man can create such an indelible and lasting legacy on a sport and in the hearts of millions.

LEAVE.

Leave us wanting for more.

I have decided not say goodbye–not  yet, because in the grander scheme of things, this is not the end.

I am not certain if you will even get to read my letter, but if you can take away just one thing from all this heartbroken rambling, let it be this:

Thank you, Michael.

THANK YOU.

Sincerely. From the absolute bottom of my heart and soul.

You are and will always be one of my heroes.

Good Luck and Godspeed.

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Love,

Bouncebackabilitrix

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Speeding off into the sunset, but never to leave our hearts…

Project of the Day: How to Make Your Own Michael Schumacher-Inspired Keyfob.

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I shall not deserve to be called a first-class, ride-or-die Michael Schumacher supporter if I have not done anything to celebrate his 300th GP in Spa-Francorchamps last weekend. And so I’ve made this DIY Schumi keyfob as a reminder of his general awesomeness as a Formula 1 driver and icon.

Good luck this weekend at Monza, Schumi!

*For more details on this project, please visit my other blog, Marjitecture.

An Open Letter to Michael Schumacher, Part 2.

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It was a long time coming–but it was well worth the wait.

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Dear Schumi,

Allow me to start by saying, I told you so.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I mean this in the best possible way. Did I not say in my past letter (please check the archives for that, danke) that you will step on to the podium and win once again? Let’s set aside the latter part for now and focus on that important feat you’ve achieved once more since your big comeback, returning to the F1 podium–in an unexpectedly emphatic manner, at that.

Hang on, let’s backtrack a bit. See, prior to this race, majority of the media and factions of F1 fans have been obsessing and harping on over the fact you’ve only been able to score 2 measly points so far and have been the recipient of some spectacularly horrible luck akin to those who’ve broken mirrors without shame. I’ve gotten so used to hearing the talks of “He’s past it”/”He’s about to retire yet again”/”He doesn’t have what it takes anymore” and other iterations of Schumi-bashings that they have become almost white noise to me. Why focus on the negativity when hope is so much kinder? And so I have decided to channel a “cautiously optimistic” state of mind for the race weekend and even affirmed it with the hashtag #LeaveSchumiAlone on Twitter. After all, the Valencia track is not exactly famous for thrilling and eventful races, so I thought I would gladly take a minimum of a full, incident-free race and perhaps a decent points finish from you.

However, I made a very serious schoolgirl mistake for ever thinking that you’d go about this race quietly and anonymously. And you made me pay for it–albeit in a good way.

While most of the race coverage focused on the front pack and I kept a watchful eye on Alonso’s rampaging Ferrari and the other one on Raikkonen’s Lotus, you kept your head down and steadily worked through midfield traffic, unpredictable backmarkers and crucial pitstops like a stealthy general.

Before I knew it, there you were. An attack so swift, so cool and calculated, it could only come from you.

Your charge towards the end of the race was so emphatic and masterful and so very–for lack of a more appropriate term–Schumacheresque. I swear I was not just on the edge of my seat but I had to practically remind myself to breathe as I watched you, hypnotized, boss and overtake rival cars left, right and center as if you’re channeling your inner taxi driver yet again to catch a flight. I may be able to inject humour now that the madness is over but I assure you that I was earnestly praying to all racing gods and higher entities that were willing to listen to let you finish the race and score major points, but they upped the ante and gave me and the rest of your fans something infinitely better–a podium finish. I’m not ashamed to admit I did a quaint combination of dancing-pumping my fists-woohooing-and grinning my mouth out after the race results have been confirmed. The occasion called for it, after all.

The way you thanked your team as you were going back to Parc Ferme was so full of humility, sincerity, and calmness that it was difficult for me to not get all emotional. Speaking of which, seeing you step on to that podium radiating pure joy and excitement, and reuniting with old rivals Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen was such a major moment for me (and for thousands of other fans, I am sure) that I cannot even encapsulate it in words.

Of course, F1 being F1, there had to be the additional twist of your podium place possibly being stripped for improper DRS usage. My poor heart nearly went into overdrive and yet again I had to beg the racing gods to have mercy and let your result stand. Thankfully, good sense prevailed and we all got to keep the fairytale ending. Oh, the agony and ecstacy of being a Formula One supporter.

You still have that effect on me, Schumi. You probably always will. Damn you.

And while this result will not silence nor satiate the critics or haters, we, your true supporters, know that while you are very much grateful and happy with that 3rd place finish, you will most certainly not rest on your laurels and will continue to keep pushing to the limit, reaching for bigger and better milestones, for the simple reason that it is what winners AND champions are truly made of.

Actually, I may even be so bold as to call it The Schumacher Way.

Thank you for being a major part of an unforgettable 2012 European GP. I am so proud of you it’s not even funny.  Go on and surprise us even more this season. I know you want to.

Go get ’em, Schumi. Never look back.
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P.S.
You will get that race win. I promise you that.

P.P.S.
If you can do it in Singapore, that will be fantastic. But if you choose to do it in an earlier race, I shan’t complain.

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Much Love,
Bouncebackabilitrix XOXO

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You deserve more than a thumbs up!