An Open Letter to Nico Rosberg.

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(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.

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

100 Unusual/Hilarious/Random/Awesome Things That Happened To Me During An F1 Race Weekend

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​If you’re not new to this blog then perhaps you already know that the 5 F1 GPs I’ve attended weren’t necessarily smooth sailing and were almost always action-packed.

Since I like long lists, I would like to share with you some of my most memorable moments during an F1 weekend. Some I have written about, while the others are yet to be expounded.

In no particular order:

1. (Nearly) meeting Nico Hulkenberg while in a taxi queue outside a mall.
2. Having one shoe fall off while running towards the podium post-race. (Yes, my friends all say I should wear running shoes when I watch GPs from now on.)
3. Seeing a Rob Smedley doppelganger and wondering why more fellow fans are not seeing that eerie resemblance.
4. Standing next to a Yoann Gourcuff/Fernando Torres lookalike and not getting the chance to surreptitiously photograph him.
5. Nico Rosberg bending down to take a closer look at the bracelet I was wearing.
6. Getting stared down by Maurizio Arrivabene.
7. Befriending a fellow fan while waiting outside the paddock entrance for Sebastian Vettel and then realizing after we’ve said goodbye that we didn’t even get to exchange names.
8. Getting squished next to a British Juan Mata lookalike during a Red Bull Racing event.
9. Finally meeting Michael Schumacher in the flesh after 15 years of dreaming about it. (Read about it here: http://wp.me/p10DmM-zz )

Schumi! ❤

10. Crying tears of joy/exhaustion underneath the podium after witnessing my very 1st Ferrari double podium. 

Post-Podium Ceremonies selfie!

11. Getting photobombed by a bunch of rowdy Irish & Australian teenage boys.
12. Meeting fellow fans in the flesh after years of Twitter interaction!
13.  Receiving strange/confused looks from sales assistants whenever I asked, “Do you have an Alguersuari cap?”
14. Having a mini-argument with a sales assistant who didn’t think Kimi Raikkonen has what it takes to win that year’s F1 Night Race.
15. Convincing a staff member to unveil at least the nose of the Ferrari display car so me and my friend can take a photo with it.
16. Trackwalking post-race holding a ziploc bag, collecting tire marbles along the way.
17. Nick Heidfeld passing me by as he made his way back to the pits after an on-track shunt. 

Hallo, Nick!

18. Taking home a piece of the foam barrier that Sergio Perez hit on-track.
19. Being overwhelmed by seeing Michael Schumacher for the 1st time in person (sans his racing gear) during the Drivers’ Parade that I took a photo of a trash bin instead of him.
20. Standing next to a group of friends who jeered both Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher and doing my best not to punch them all.
21. Inadvertently yelling “Jaime Alguersuari!” so loudly during the Drivers’ Parade that he looked my way and waved.
22. Being so sleepy and exhausted that I started yelling “Sebastian Vettel! Where are you? Please come out!” towards the Paddock Entrance (It was already past 4am & I only had 1 hr of sleep that entire day, okay?!).
23. Praying earnestly not to get injured as I mounted multiple barriers and ran up several slopes just to make the podium ceremonies.
24. Finding out our house got completely flooded due to a major typhoon barely 24hrs before attending my very 1st F1 race.
25. Wearing a headband decorated with lots of tiny Lego mini-tires.
26. Buying expensive caps that I didn’t really need but I absolutely wanted. 

Ogling the overpriced merchandise that I still could not help but buy…

27. Sneaking surreptitious looks at the KangarooTV (remember them?) of my fellow fans.
28. Foregoing eating for nearly 12 hours because the queues are too long/I didn’t have much of an appetite/I’d rather go around the track.
29. Having a hulk of a guy, who was bald and wearing a sleeveless top, borrow my fan and then ask me, “How are you not sweating in this weather?! I am dying here!” (It’s true, I was cool as a cucumber in the heat and humidity while he was as red as a tomato and sweating like a whore in church.)
30. Speaking of fans, while waiting to cross in a pedestrian footbridge, another Western guy stood beside me and made almost-inappropriate sounds of pleasure when he caught some of the air I was producing with my fan.
31. Having a fellow fan snatch my Sharpie pen in excitement while waiting for Heikki Kovalainen to sign stuff because his own pen didn’t work. Heikki saw the look of annoyance on my face and signed my stuff first. Ha. The fan apologized to me after so it’s all good.
32. Having a fellow fan graciously lend me his pen when it was my turn to have my stuff signed by Max Verstappen, because I dropped my pen inside my blackhole of a bag before taking a photo of him.
33. Nico Hulkenberg telling me, “Good luck!” after he signed my notebook. I’m pretty sure I made a “Huh?” face but he just smiled and moved on.
34. Standing outside a pop-up store for nearly 2 hours just to see Nico Rosberg up close for the 1st time.
35. Sneakily placing my mobile phone in between a cameraman’s legs just to be able to take a photo of Jenson Button for a friend.
36. Considered gatecrashing an F1-related event but changing my mind at the last minute to go shopping instead.
37. Getting lost on my way out of the track because I was too busy posting my Vettel autograph on Instagram.

I waited nearly 5 hours for this!

38. Bumping into an elderly track personnel while trying to find the track exit at past 4 am & getting told, “You’re still here, Miss?! Go home & get some sleep, lah!”
39. Having to explain to a semi-flirting taxi driver what makes F1 such a great sport at past 4 in the morning. Completely sober.
40. Having a whole conversation with our taxi driver about the 2008 F1 Night Race on our way to the airport while my friends rolled their eyes at the back.
41. Being too lazy to chase after Felipe Massa and then asking a fellow fan “Was he with Rob Smedley?” after.
42. Going to a McLaren-related exhibit inside a mall just to check out the Kimi Raikkonen bits. 

Spot the misspelled word there…

43. My friends freaking out on my behalf when they saw a huge Michael Schumacher billboard outside the Petronas Towers. “You have to take a photo with that!” I’ve trained my friends well.

Where Schumi goes, I go…

44. Nearly not being on time for a Qualifying Session due to a delay at the border, so I had to tell the taxi driver, “Please channel your inner F1 driver, I cannot be late!” We got to the track on time.
45. Dishing out the “You’re kidding me, right?” face everytime a sales assistant asks, “Are you getting this for your boyfriend?” when I’m browsing F1 merchandise.
46. Being given tons of free Singapore GP goodies by a staff member of the Singapore’s Visitor Centre when she found out it was my first GP ever.
47. Being too starstruck/awestruck to even properly take a photo of Kimi Raikkonen as he whizzed past us fans in his golf cart.
48. Starting conversations with fellow fans with, “So, who do you support?”
49. From crying my eyes out of sadness the night before to experiencing internal bliss the next day during my very first GP.
50. Getting invited by a fellow fan to “watch Fernando Alonso sunbathe in his hotel”. Yeah, I gave that a pass.
51. Being given free bottled water by generous track marshals.
52. Getting the stink-eye from Hamilton fans when my friend and I let out a whoop when he retired.
53. Having a fellow fan start a convo with me by opening with, “You’re a Kimi fan, right? You look like a Kimi fan” even though I wasn’t wearing anything Kimi-related. He’s a Kobayashi fan, by the way.
54. Getting the “You came all the way from the Philippines?!” response from fellow fans when I tell them where I’m from. Seriously guys, it’s not that far from Singapore.
55. Using all my charms to convince a bus conductor not to leave me and my friends in Johor Bahru (I had to attend a Qualifying Session in Sg that night) by distracting him and appealing to his Ferrari-supporting side.
56. Seeing someone I know through Twitter in person but getting too shy to approach them and say hello.
57. Receiving a dazzling smile from Sebastian Vettel after I wished him “Good luck!”
58. Yelling “Hello, Kimi!” everytime Kimi enters the pits mere meters away from me.
59. Nearly falling asleep while taking a shower after getting back to home base at nearly 5 am.
60. A fellow fan asking me, “Who is he? He’s a driver, right?” when Felipe Nasr exited the Paddock area and started signing for the fans.
61. Being all superstitious and wearing at least 1 red item per day for Ferrari’s sake (hey it worked for the 2015 F1 Night Race!).
62. Watching a Free Practice Session from a height of 165 meters for free, thanks to the Singapore Flyer.

The Singapore Flyer

63. Getting amused laughs from security personnel at the Gates during bag check whenever they see how huge my bag is and how it’s usually filled with shopping bags.
64. Falling in love with a promo umbrella emblazoned with the faces of past F1 Champions. 

I want that umbrella!!

65. Sending a text blast to selected friends (and most probably waking them up) at like 2 in the morning saying I’ve met Michael Schumacher. In all caps. I regret nothing.
66. My Spanish basically getting reduced to “por favor” and “gracias” when I met the Spanish-speaking drivers.
67. Seeing 1997 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve blanked by fans.
68. Seeing Grumpy Fernando Alonso refuse to sign/take pics for fans and telling them a resounding, “NO!”
69. Seeing Kimi Raikkonen’s trainer Mark Arnall get a warm reception from fans, even getting autograph/selfie requests!
70. Randomly getting stopped by a fellow fan to ask why there was a Safety Car on track at that moment (Due to the Hulk-Massa shunt, F1 Night Race 2015).
71. Receiving a text from a friend that went something like, “Hey I’ve just heard that someone invaded the track mid-race. That’s not you, right?!” And yes, it was NOT me. (F1 Night Race 2015)
72. Running through nearly 1/3 of the track (back & forth at that) just to be able to make the podium ceremonies.
73. Watching Maroon 5’s concert post-Qualifying Session behind a couple who made out for 80% of the duration. Ick.
74. Randomly getting complimented by a fellow fan on the lipstick I was wearing during raceday (MAC Ruby Woo).
75. Immediately storing the Sharpie pen that was touched and handled by 3 World Champions (Schumacher, Vettel & Alonso) inside a ziploc bag and never touching it with bare hands again.
76. Resisting the urge to pee for 4 hours for fear of missing any on-track action.
77. Being told “You know a lot about F1 for a woman” by a taxi driver. (SIGH.)
78. Riding on the same elevator with fellow F1 fans who could not disguise their friskiness and looked just about to get it on.
79. Forgetting to remove my earplugs post-race which resulted to me talking really loudly to my friend and a few fellow fans for nearly half an hour.
80. Forgetting to bring my earplugs during raceday, buying a pair on-track but not using them anyway (this is during the V6 era already; and don’t follow my example, kids!).
81. Having a GP weekend survival kit that consists of: Paracetamol, band-aids, Tiger Balm and Salonpas strips.
82. Surreptitiously doing yoga-like stretches in between sessions (sometimes in the middle of a race) to prevent my legs from cramping and to relieve my poor back.
83. Unabashedly brandishing my foldable binoculars to get a better look at the cars (and to people-watch better).
84. Getting sad at seeing the discounted Kimi Raikkonen caps during his F1 sabbatical (circa 2010), but knowing in my heart he’ll return to F1 once again. I kinda wish I bought a couple of those now! 

I guess they thought Kimi wouldn’t be coming back…

85. Having this weird fascination with kerbs and touching/stroking at least one of them post-race.
86. Having the same fascination with tire marks on the walls and touching/stroking at least one of them post-race.
87. Nearly (deliberately) stepping on the foot of a motormouth fan behind me when he very loudly proclaimed that they should just skip interviewing Kimi Raikkonen because he is so dull (among other things) during the 2015 F1 Night Podium Ceremonies.
88. Shivering (in a good way) every time I hear the sound of an F1 car accelerating.
89. Overhearing a fellow fan tell his girlfriend, “Get Fernando to sign this, will you?” Girlfriend: “Why me?” Guy: “You’re a girl, he’ll pay more attention to you!”
90. Marvelling at how…vertically-challenged most drivers are.
91. Realizing though that most, if not all of them are much better-looking in person.
92. Overtaking slow-walking fans with F1 engine sounds playing inside my head.
93. Learning that when in doubt, go ask a track marshal/policeman directly.
94. Drinking more water in 3 days than I do in a whole month.
95. Regretting not being able to make and bring a witty banner.
96. Discovering a good spot for the Drivers’ Parade where they’re close enough to hear you when you yell their names.
97. Foregoing watching the musical acts in favor of waiting for the drivers & personnel.
98. Finding out that (most) F1 fans are really very nice and good fun.
99. Bending down the start-finish line and leaving a red kiss mark on it post-race.

Leaving my (kiss)mark on the track!

100. That strange mixture of happiness and sadness that envelops me as I leave the track post-race which leads to an iron resolve of, “I WILL BE BACK, NO MATTER WHAT!”

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I’m sure I have missed many more anecdotes, but anyway, perhaps they’ll make it to a part 2 of this post.

Meanwhile, I’m already planning my next GP weekend because I cannot wait to see what other adventures/misadventures await me.

(What are your own unforgettable F1 GP mini-anecdotes? Tell me in the comments section!)

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.

An Open Letter to Max Verstappen.

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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

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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. 😉

Vettel the Underappreciated*.

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Hungaroring: Where the hungry takes the win in roaring fashion. Here are the facts after the dance of the chequered flag in this year’s Hungarian GP:

Sebastian Vettel has registered his 2nd win with Scuderia Ferrari.

It hasn’t always been easy, but somehow, he’s made it work.

He’s the only driver so far in 2015 who has finished within the top 5.

And he doesn’t even have a so-called “dominant” car.

He now has a total of 41 wins, equaling Ayrton Senna and moving into the top 3 of the all-time race wins list (only Prost and Schumacher are now ahead).

Third on the list. Just let that sink in. He’s not even close to 30 years old! His best racing years are still ahead of him. And he seems to have plenty of time to rewrite history, still.

Also, he’s now tied with Fernando Alonso as the driver with most total points scored with 1778 points (so far).

Won’t be long until he pulls away and takes the lead.

He beat pole-sitter, WDC leader and bookies’ favourite Lewis Hamilton.

Prior to the race, pundits were salivating at the thought of Lewis Hamilton finally taking sole ownership of “The most successful driver in Hungaroring”, a record which he currently shares with Michael Schumacher. When he took pole position in his dominant Mercedes, practically everyone thought that it was all but a done deal. Well, well. Isn’t it quite fitting that it was Vettel—Schumacher’s protégé—who spoiled the party, in a Ferrari at that, and effectively preserved Schumi’s Hungaroring joint-record (at least for now)?        

He dedicated his victory to the recently-passed on Manor GP driver Jules Bianchi.

Who says he’s ruthless/heartless/selfish? His spontaneous and earnest message to the team post-race, especially the part about Jules Bianchi was nothing short of heart-wrenching. Pass me a tissue, please.

 

All of that and yet, Sebastian Vettel is still obviously, massively underappreciated.

Here is a driver that is the only one even remotely close to challenging, and possibly reaching Michael Schumacher’s daunting F1 records, and yet he is still mainly associated with trivial things such as “The Finger” and “Multi 21-gate”.

I don’t understand why some people still choose to see the Darth Vader and not the Anakin Skywalker in him.

Denial? Crab mentality? Or is it ultimately fear of the genius/potential in him that he is yet to unleash?

My take is that this season has been a gamechanger for Sebastian. We’re now seeing a more mature, humbler, generally-better iteration of him. Adversity has become his friend. Vettel is in a middle of a…metamorphosis. It may not be such good news to his rivals but it certainly is a fascinating watch for us fans.

Luckily, his supporters are the Ride Or Die-kind. He doesn’t need to become Mr. Popular to prove his mettle. He is here to stay and fight. Deal with it, haters. At the end of the day, history will decide what sort of driver he is, and he will only fit between two categories: One of the Greats, or The Best There Ever Was.

So just do you, Seb. The rest shall fall into place.

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 *Yes, I am well aware that “underappreciated” is not in the dictionary. It was a conscious choice to use the word as it best fits and gives the most emphasis to the context of the article.

 

On Schumi Dreams, Vettel, Mick, And The (Racing) Ties That Bind.

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I’ve always been a vivid dreamer.

A few days ago, I had a dream about Michael Schumacher. I was outside a sunny race paddock when all of a sudden, there he was, in his signature Ferrari racing overalls and cap, riding his scooter. I remember calling him and asking for a photo with him, a request he happily granted. As I wrapped my arm around his waist while the photo was being taken, I remember thinking, “This is fantastic! But too perfect. I wish this was really happening.”

See, even in my dream I had a semblance of awareness that what I was experiencing at that moment wasn’t real. Even in my dream I “knew” that Schumi couldn’t possibly be a Ferrari driver anymore and that he is currently in no condition to ride a scooter. Even so, in that moment I was happy. So very happy I almost wished that dream wouldn’t end. But of course I had to wake up some time and accept the fact it was all in my subconscious.

After Schumi’s life-altering accident, watching F1 has never been quite the same for me. Of course I still immensely enjoy it, but there is now more than a scintilla of sadness when I watch the races. As I have mentioned in my previous posts, Sebastian Vettel’s move to Ferrari this season has, in a way, helped me to deal with the sadness, although conversely, his presence in the team and his similarities with Michael also become a glaring reminder of just how much I miss Schumi.

The day after the dream, I saw on Twitter that Vettel has become a patron of the ADAC Formula 4, the motorsport series he competed in as a youngster and the same series that Michael’s son Mick will be participating in this season. Quite fitting. While it may be a practical decision on his part, the sentimental fool in me found it quite a sweet gesture from the German. Michael Schumacher used to be the benchmark for Vettel and his fellow racers back then, and now that he has achieved a big part of his F1 dreams, Vettel is now the one who is giving back to the youngsters who want to follow in his and Schumi’s racing footsteps (or should that be tyre marks?).

Vettel himself has admitted that he is missing his mentor Schumacher’s advice when it comes to F1 and beyond. Spare a thought (or two) for young Mick Schumacher who will start a new chapter in his motorsport career finally bearing that surname, but without his father cheering from the sidelines. We can only surmise on how much pressure he is under—if any at all—but sometimes when I look at the Schumacher children I feel an overwhelming sense of protectiveness and I just want to give them both a big hug and tell them to stay strong and that everything will be alright.

I hope that Seb extends his help to Mick in whichever way he can, just like what Michael has so unselfishly done with him throughout the years.

This weekend, Mick formally started his ADAC Formula 4 adventure and promptly registered his 1st win in the series’ 3rd race. Words just weren’t enough to describe the happiness and pride I felt when I saw the words, “P1 M SCHUMACHER” and Mick standing on the top step of the podium while the German anthem played. This is the start of something amazing. I just know it.

To say I’m immeasurably excited for what the future holds for Mick would be an understatement. If we only had live coverage of the F4 races then I’d gladly watch, but for now I can only offer my unequivocal support from this side of the pond.

As for my dream, well, I firmly believe that dreams can be a sign of things to come. He may not be able to become a Ferrari driver once more but in my heart, there is still hope that we will see Schumi happily riding his scooter yet again.

Image via f1-memes.tumblr.com

Image via f1-memes.tumblr.com

An Open Letter to Sebastian Vettel.

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Dear Sebastian,

This is going to sound weird considering that you don’t know me, but I feel like a proud…older sister*.

See, I liked you instantly the moment I laid eyes on you as a Friday Driver for BMW-Sauber in 2006. In all my years as an F1 fan, that has only happened to 2 other drivers: Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen, so you should be flattered as you’re in good, nay, excellent company. I cannot quite explain it, but there was something about you (and not just your youth at that time) that stood out for me. When I found out that you were nicknamed “Baby Schumi” in your native Germany (let it never be said that I don’t do proper research on the drivers I like), I knew my talent-spotting instincts were spot on. And when you got fined for speeding in the pitlane in that same season? Instead of rolling my eyes and tut-tutting, I laughed and thought, “This kid is going to become a World Champion.”

And boy, you sure made my 2006 prediction come true.

In massive, trailblazing style, at that. You made the then-relatively obscure, B-team Toro Rosso a fan favourite; You took the proverbial “David” that was Red Bull Racing to the top by beating the F1 “Goliaths” left, right, front and center; You raised the bar ridiculously high for F1 newbies; You took the hype surrounding your name and smashed it into pieces with pure talent; You rewrote F1 and Motorsport History Books over and over again.

But you are not perfect. You had your flaws. You hated losing and it showed. You didn’t just beat your teammates, you crushed them. You disobeyed your team. You won so much and dominated so much (not in the ways that Max Moseley likes, though) that you “inspired” a band of ill-informed, so-called F1 fans to boo you every time you appeared on the podium. You became a polarizing F1 figure. I mean, when you get compared to Darth Vader, you know you truly have it made as a Hero/Villain hybrid.

And then that hope, that prayer at the back of my mind finally happened: You decided to join Scuderia Ferrari, a.k.a. the F1 team that I still love/support even if it keeps on breaking my heart into smithereens (masochist much). I know it wasn’t a very-well kept secret, but it was one of those things that refused to sink in with me until I saw you wear that famous red racesuit, much like what happened with Kimi Raikkonen.

Speaking of, it is still pretty much blowing my mind right now that you will finally be teammates with Kimi. Could there be any more of a kickass pairing in F1 2015? None. Zilch. Nada. So please, carry on with that unique bromance thing you have with the Kimster. I’m so looking forward to the (unintentionally) hilarious adverts, interviews and shenanigans you two will provide for us fans this year. Oh, and there’s the racing too, I suppose.

I’m trying my best to keep this funny and light-hearted, but you see, every time I look at you in the Red of Ferrari, I am somehow reminded of Michael Schumacher, and it’s making me—for lack of a better term—very emotional.

I want you to know that I am not expecting a Schumacher-type of domination from you. I am not going to expect you to be The New Ferrari Messiah (or just A Very Naughty Boy**). While I want to say that I will not put undue pressure on you, I know that you are more than capable of handling the harsh and unrealistic expectations of both fans and critics. You live for the pressure. You thrive on pressure. You are not a 4-time World Champion for nothing. You have the talent, the heart, the dedication, the determination, the moxie, the ruthlessness, that intangible something that separates the ordinary drivers from the extraordinary ones. You are someone special and you know it.

Never ever be sorry for following your heart. The fight has not even properly started yet but I already want to thank you: Thank you for breaking out of your comfort zone. Thank you for having the balls to try to revive the wheezing Prancing Horse. Thank you for the leap of faith. Danke.

In my heart, I would like to believe that your childhood hero, your ex-ROC teammate and your beloved friend Schumi is already so, so proud of you.

Whatever happens this year and beyond, you are guaranteed my support and respect.

Best of luck and may you and your finger give them all hell!

 

P.S.

See you in Singapore later this year. There’s no way in the world I’ll be missing the Night Race with you and Kimi now representing Ferrari.

 

Sincerely,

Bouncebackabilitrix

 

 

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Sebastian Vettel and The Door of Destiny.

 

 

Footnotes:

*I may be relatively old but I’m nowhere near the “I could be your mother” type of old.

**Oh hey, a Monty Python Reference!