Sunday, April 17, 2011

Classic F1 2011 - Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher has chosen his five greatest all-time grands prix for the second edition of this year's new-look classic Formula 1 feature.

To those unfamiliar with the concept, BBC Sport has asked all the F1 drivers to name their five favourite races, and we will select one of them ahead of each grand prix this season to whet your appetites for the action to come.

World champion Sebastian Vettel started the ball rolling with his selection prior to the Australian Grand Prix, and now it is his friend and countryman's turn.

The drivers are free to choose whether they pick races from their own career, or those from the wider history of F1 that have resonated with them. And like Vettel, Schumacher has selected only races from his time in the sport.

Whereas the Red Bull driver made his F1 debut only in 2007, Schumacher's career dates back to 1991 and the 42-year-old has raided the memory banks to come up with what he considers, for different reasons, key highlights of that time.

Not all of them are races in which he starred. Some of them are intended to highlight his admiration for rivals. Some fulfil both aims.

In chronological order, and in his own words, this is Schumacher's list:

"The 1991 Spanish Grand Prix.

"This was one of the first few races of my career, but that's not why I remember it. It's for the wheel-to-wheel battle down the pit straight between Ayrton Senna and Nigel Mansell, when they came within inches of touching. It was two great drivers pushing each other to the edge, but with the respect to leave each other just enough room. It's one of the coolest moments I've seen in F1."

"The 1993 European Grand Prix.

"Not one of my greatest races - I spun out in the pouring rain. I've picked this because of Ayrton. My time racing against him was too short. He was a great talent, and I always have been impressed by his driving, and this race showed exactly why."

"The 1998 Hungarian Grand Prix.

"This race sums up the great relationship I had - and still have - with Ross Brawn. We were behind the McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard for the first part of the race and Ross decided that the only chance of beating them was to switch to a three-stop strategy - one stop more than them. It was a brilliant plan but it wasn't easy. I still remember the radio message from Ross that I had to make up something like 25 seconds in 19 laps."

"The 2000 Belgian Grand Prix.

"I enjoyed many great battles with Mika Hakkinen, who was very fast and a very tough competitor, and this was one of the best. I got into the lead when it was wet early on, but as it dried up Mika had a big pace advantage and he caught up easily. I managed to fend him off for one lap, but on the next he pulled off a great move to pass me as we went either side of Ricardo Zonta's BAR."

"The 2000 Japanese Grand Prix.

"This is probably both the toughest and most beautiful race of my career. Mika and I were flat out all the way, really on the edge every lap on a great drivers' circuit with the world championship at stake. And the race was really tricky because of changing conditions in the drizzle. I managed to get out ahead after my final pit stop and won. What makes it all the more special was that it was my first world title for Ferrari - this race certainly is my personal number one."

As with Vettel, we have chosen one race to highlight in this blog - and how we could choose any other than Schumacher's number one?

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In addition, we have decided to make available the full BBC 'Grand Prix' highlights programme of the time from one of his other choices - the 1991 Spanish Grand Prix. You can watch it here.

You can also enjoy highlights of last year's Malaysian Grand Prix in both short and extended form.

The classic races will also be available on the red button on digital television in the UK. On satellite and cable they will be broadcast from 1900 BST on Tuesday 5 April until 0845 on Friday 8 April. On Freeview, they will be shown from 2215 on Tuesday until 0645 on Wednesday, on Thursday from 0415-0645 and again from 1915-2045.

A final word. In my last blog, I said that we would feature Schumacher's team-mate Nico Rosberg this time around. We were not able to do so because of unforeseen problems. His choices will appear later in the season.


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