Greater Noida: At 43, Michael Schumacher is the oldest among the current crop of drivers in the Formula One circuit. Yet at the Buddh International Circuit on Thursday, the seven-time world champion remained the most sought after man for the fans and the media. Even when the German star rode a fancy bicycle to reach the pit from the Team Mercedes office in the circuit, some autograph seekers were seen trailing him.
Though only four races away from his second retirement from the sport, the legend is aware of his popularity in India. “It is the fans, who play a big role behind the success of a circuit. That way, the Indian GP is a big success,” said the German star.
“Last year, there were a surprising number of fans during the weekend, rarely seen in the first year at any circuit. The track itself really is cool. We drivers were given a very enthusiastic reception, and it will be interesting to see if the spirit has remained as strong,” he added.
Despite being dubbed as one of the greatest drivers ever, Schumacher has not really set the track on fire since he decided to make a comeback three seasons ago. He has managed only one podium finish since then, leaving his fans to wonder how correct the German’s decision to sit behind the wheel once again was.
Schumacher, however, was not ready to accept that he should have never returned to the track. “Yes, in hindsight probably, you have (regrets) but most of the times, I have made the right decision,” was his terse reply.
“I know, things have not gone according to the expectations. It’s been a tough three years. We have failed as a team and have been criticised — that’s reasonable and acceptable. We may not have got the best car but we are still competing at the highest level. I have grown and matured and that’s what matters… I have no regrets,” he said.
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton will replace Schumacher at Mercedes next season and the German said his successor will benefit from the work he has put in with his team over the past three years.
“I’m not a designer or an aerodynamicist, but I think that I have contributed to the team’s development,” he said adding he hoped Hamilton enjoys success with Mercedes. Schumacher, however, made it clear that he would happy to see the fellow German Sebastian Vettel win the drivers’ championship again.
“I’ll be glad for him and for the team. I think I should have a drink with him because I certainly would have a stake in his success.”