Formula 1 Racing Legend Announces Retirement

The most successful driver in Formula 1 racing history, Michael Schumacher, announces his retirement. Matt Bishop, Editor-in-Chief of Formula 1 Racing magazine about what made Schumacher one of the all-time greats.

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DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. From NPR News, I'm Debbie Elliott.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:

Formula 1 racing will soon be losing its greatest driver. Germany's Michael Schumacher announced today that he will retire from the sport at the end of the season. Schumacher won the Italian Grand Prix today driving for the Ferrari team. It was his 90th racing victory. Matt Bishop is editor-in-chief of Formula 1 Racing magazine. He covered the race today in Manza, Italy. Matt Bishop, tell us about Michael Schumacher. They call him the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time. What makes him so special?

Mr. MATT BISHOP (Editor-in-Chief, Formula 1 Racing Magazine): Well, he's a man who has dominated this sport completely and comprehensively since, I suppose, 1994. He started in '91, but since '94 he has been the main man by a long margin. And today, in Italy, in front of his adoring tifosi, the Ferrari fans, he won for the 90th time, and he's well on course for his eighth world championship, which of course would be a record. And what an emotional day it has been and is still being.

ELLIOTT: Let's remind our listeners, if we can, about Formula 1 racing and why what Michael Schumacher does is such a feat.

Mr. BISHOP: Without a shadow of a doubt, Formula 1 racing is the most demanding racing category in the world today. I'm not just talking about top speed, because Gen cars are extremely quick. Indy cars are extremely quick. But in terms of the grip around the corners, the performance of a Formula 1 car has no peer in the world today.

Fitness in Formula 1 is absolutely of paramount importance. The effort that's required to drive a car that corners as fast as a Formula 1 car requires extraordinary superhuman levels of fitness. And in terms of the detailed engineering and the amount of investment that goes into these guided missiles, to call them cars is to do them discredit. They are guided missiles. And here's an example. Each steering wheel on Michael Schumacher's Ferrari costs about 70,000 U.S. dollars.

ELLIOT: Was he emotional when he announced his retirement?

Mr. BISHOP: He was very emotional. He didn't actually cry but you could tell that he was fighting back tears. He thanked his father. He thanked his family, his teammates, his mechanics, his engineers. And he spoke for quite a long time. On the podium, the victory celebrations, he sprayed champagne and he hugged every single one of his mechanics. The thing about Michael Schumacher is, although he is the greatest Formula 1 driver of all time, although he is a multi-millionaire and earns, we think, probably about, 90 - that's nine zero - million U.S. dollars a year, he still has time to celebrate with the lowliest, youngest and least experienced mechanics.

ELLIOTT: Now, Schumacher isn't exactly known for his sportsmanship on the racetrack. How do you think he'll be remembered?

Mr. BISHOP: Well, the problem with Schumacher is that he is unscrupulous. He will win at all costs. Nothing matters more to Michael Schumacher than winning a motor race. And that being the case, anything, or almost anything, is - on the cards is acceptable.

ELLIOTT: Even knocking somebody else off the course?

Mr. BISHOP: Many, many, many times in his 90 Grand Prix wins and his 200-and-counting Grand Prix starts has Michael Schumacher knocked people off, got in people's way, done anything he can, really. Intimidated people.

ELLIOTT: What do you think he'll do now?

Mr. BISHOP: Spend his money. Michael Schumacher has been earning enormous sums of money. He's only 37. He'll enjoy spending it.

ELLIOTT: Matt Bishop is the editor-in-chief of Formula 1 Racing magazine in Britain. Thanks for speaking with us.

Mr. BISHOP: My pleasure.

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