Record-breaking F1 legend Michael Schumacher has exposed himself as 'flawed' and his comeback 'ruins what being a world champion is all about', argues Sir Stirling Moss – with the British racing hero accusing the German of being 'all over the place' in 2010.
Having boldly thrown his hat into the ring to return to the grid with Mercedes Grand Prix at the comparatively grand old age of 41 – pitting himself against a whole host of new adversaries predominantly in their twenties – Schumacher found the season quite a struggle, being routinely out-qualified and outraced by young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg and winding up a distant ninth in the final standings.
Indeed, 2010 marked the first time since his debut in the top flight all the way back in 1991 that 'Schumi' had achieved not so much as a single podium finish – whilst Rosberg conversely tallied three – and the end-of-season statistics do not make for comfortable reading for the most successful driver in the sport's long history, a man with no fewer than seven drivers' crowns and 91 grand prix victories to his name.
There were also episodes such as the controversial incident during which Schumacher very nearly drove former Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barrichello into the Hungaroring pit wall as the pair duelled over tenth place and the last point on offer in the race – earning the oldest driver in the field a ten-place grid drop for the following Belgian Grand Prix, and prompting a belated and somewhat insincere public apology to his livid Brazilian rival.
It was just such moves that reminded observers of Schumacher's utterly ruthless streak out on-track and his polarising personality – and Moss contends he should never have returned after a three-year absence from competition, and that in so doing he only betrayed the reality that he had never had a truly competitive team-mate before to take the fight to him.
“The fact he was a seven-time world champion ruins what being a world champion is all about,” the 81-year-old – rated as the best driver never to claim the sport's greatest prize – is quoted as having said by the Press Association
. “He is flawed. He was all over the place. We never saw him at his best when he had a really good driver alongside him. We never saw him in a Ferrari with a driver of similar talent really, so I think [his record] is misleading.
“I don't think he regrets coming back, but it was ill-advised. He did so well [previously] – the most important contribution he had was dragging Ferrari back to the top. The fact he is carrying on next year is interesting, although quite frankly, I wouldn't be worried if I was up against him.”
A dissenting voice, however, is that of Damon Hill, Schumacher's erstwhile bitter sparring partner – and a man who was shunted unceremoniously out of the way by his arch-rival in the 1994 Australian Grand Prix in Adelaide as the latter contentiously assured himself of his first title at the highest level. The 1996 F1 World Champion and current British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) President argues that only a fool would write Michael off next season.
“I don't think he disgraced himself at all this year,” the 50-year-old opined. “He showed it's hard to come back and maintain pace when you're older. He will have had things to think about I'm sure, but he will never give up – that's what defines him. He's a formidable competitor, and I'm sure he is going to prove everyone wrong next year.”