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Since 1st March, 1999
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Schumi goes, like the wind
- Flat tyre denies last-race glory, but the spirit flies

Sao Paulo, Oct. 23: What does the Red Baron do when he’s stopped setting racetracks on fire, as he did here yesterday in the last Grand Prix of his life' He builds himself a manor.

It’s more a modern chateau, really, with two-dozen rooms over three floors and a 45-ft tower atop which will sit his private office. And, yes, an underground garage that can be home to 25 cars.

Michael Schumacher may have stopped whizzing around in the red Ferrari, but he ain’t done with cars yet.

All this — the elaborate home in the Swiss town of Gland, treelined on three sides and with a lake on the fourth — for the record seven-time world champion to do naught.

Every time he’s been asked what he’d do after hanging up his driving gloves, Schumi has said: “Nothing.”

There will, of course, be his wife Corinna and daughter Gina-Marie and son Mick and an assortment of animals.

Only 37 and nothing'

Well, why not'

“I’ve lived a life that’s full — /I’ve travelled each and every highway./And more, much more than this,/ I did it my way.”

The words of the Frank Sinatra song came to Schumacher’s lips as he looked back on his Formula One career after Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix where he came fourth after an astonishing race that he started in the 10th place and then had a flat tyre after racing ahead to 5th.

“You know the song ‘My Way’' I’d say that fits the way I feel,” he said after the final chequered flag came down on the most successful and controversial Formula One career of all time.

“Michael you are the champion, today and forever,” declared one banner at Interlagos, the circuit of his last, some would say heroic — and certainly dramatic — race.

There was a time when he won everything. It was so boring. If he had stood on the podium spraying champagne in his last race, that would have been boring, too, because it would have been such a happy sight.

Had he simply crumbled, under the burden of a fuel pump problem that forced him out of the final qualifying session on Saturday and to a 10th-place start, followed by a puncture, it would have been a sad end but without drama.

Instead, the German shot off like a bullet and blazed his way to the shoulder of Fernando Alonso, who eventually became F1 champion for the second year running.

As he ripped past Giancarlo Fisichella, a grand battle was in sight. Then the tragic blow — a puncture. His rear left tyre was in bits, as was his title challenge.

No one, not even those who don’t see him as the greatest of all time, despite his record 91 victories, would have wanted Schumi’s career to end in such a whimper.

Michael Schumacher hasn’t been universally popular. “For whatever reason, personality, some of the things he has done, charisma, he has not had that huge appeal which Ayrton (Senna, the late legendary Brazilian) had,” Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has said.

“But as a driver he has broken almost every record in the book and that may never be done again. Are we going to hound him to the end'”

There will be those that will point to the controversies, the collision with Damon Hill in the 1994 title decider and the notorious attempt in 1997 to run Jacques Villeneuve off the road.

The global scorn and outrage that followed Austria 2002, when the German took an undeserved win after Ferrari ordered team mate Rubens Barrichello to move over, will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Nor will his hollow victory at the 2005 US Grand Prix when all seven teams using Michelin tyres pulled out on safety grounds, leaving just six Bridgestone equipped cars, including Schumacher’s Ferrari, in the race.

“Michael didn’t really fight to support the rest of the drivers to make sure we could put on a good show for Formula One because it was an opportunity for him to win a Grand Prix,” fellow driver David Coulthard told the BBC.

Yesterday, he fought even when that opportunity seemed to have been pricked with his flat tyre.

Dropping to 20th place after the puncture, he scythed his way through the field, crowned by the move when he passed McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen, the man who replaces him at Ferrari next year.

With just two laps to go, it was too late to give Alonso the charge. Still, Schumi clocked the fastest lap of the race.

“But it just wasn’t meant to be today,” he said later, leaving behind the sight of a racer driving like the wind.

Written with reports from The Daily Telegraph and The Times, London

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