German sporting greats are united in their praise for record seven-time champion Michael Schumacher who bows out of Formula One at this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
In a survey by DPA, football legend Franz Beckenbauer and Olympic figure skating champion Katarina Witt are among some of the country’s leading sports personalities to laud the 43-year-old racing driver whose career will end in Sao Paulo on Sunday.
Schumacher holds nearly all of the sport’s records, including 91 grand prix wins and 68 pole positions along with his seven championship titles with Benetton and Ferrari.
After initially retiring at the end of 2006, he returned to racing in 2010 with Mercedes, but in his second F1 spell he has been unable to add to his victories, and will be succeeded next year at the team by Lewis Hamilton.
Beckenbauer told DPA he would be keeping his fingers crossed for Schumacher in his last race.
“He was the reason I watched Formula One. It is a pity he is quitting,” Germany’s 1974 World Cup-winning captain said.
Olympic figure-skating champion Witt said: “He has written history in his sport and is someone who is mostly fair. I was often in front of the television rooting for him.” Joachim Loew, Germany’s national football team coach, told DPA: Michael Schumacher is one of the few really great German sports figures who is known and is popular throughout the world.
“His success in Formula One speaks for itself and remain unforgettable. I also have a high regard for him as a person. It was always extremely pleasant when we met him with the national team in recent years.” Former Germany football captain Michael Ballack said Schumacher “was one of the real greats we have had in the past decades.” He added: “What he has achieved and the status he has in Germany is extraordinary.” Gymnastics world champion Fabian Hambuechen said Formula One would miss Schumacher. Although compatriot Sebastian Vettel had taken his place as the country’s top racer “everyone who hears the name Schumacher knows what’s behind it -- he is a Formula One brand name,” he said.
There has also been plenty of praise this week from within the Formula One family. Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said Schumacher’s name was linked to more than half of the team’s victories and he “remains deep in the hearts of the Ferrari family.” “He has set a standard which is above everything. His achievements are unique,” he said.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn, who has worked alongside Schumacher for most of his career, said Sunday’s race “will be an emotional weekend for everyone in the team.” Brawn praised Schumacher’s “enduring commitment, passion and team spirit,” adding: “Having worked with Michael for the majority of the 21 seasons of his career, I feel that he is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, Formula One driver of all time, and we wish him the very best with his future plans.”