[FOUNTAIN]Racer paves way to be a living legendIn May 2003, Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari caught on fire during the Formula One Austrian Grand Prix. Just as his Ferrari made a pit stop to refuel and change a tire, a drip of fuel caught flame that came close to the seat the where the 36-year-old German racer was sitting. The flame around the receptacle and the nearby fuel tank was blowing out heat at 800 degrees Celsius. Even at the touch-and-go situation, Schumacher did not move. Through the side mirror, he quietly watched his staff put out the fire.
As soon as Schumacher saw the fire, two things must have come to his mind. The first would be the death of Ayrton Senna, his role model and hero who inspired Schumacher to be a racer. When Schumacher saw Senna’s race in Belgium when he was 11, he decided to pursue a career as a racer. In 1994, Senna was killed during the Italian Grand Prix when his car crashed into a wall at 300 kilometers per hour (190 mph) right in front of Schumacher. The star racer used to say that everything could end in a flash in a car race. He said that was not afraid of accidents and hoped to die instantly if he got into one. Just as Senna had hoped, he became a legend. At the same time, Schumacher must have been reminded of another dangerous incident involving his teammate, Jus Verstappen. A fire started during refueling, and Verstappen jumped out of the car.
When the fire was extinguished, Schumacher wiped the foam off his helmet from the extinguisher and immediately returned to the circuit. He had spent twice more time than he had planned at the pit. Because of the delay, he was 10 seconds behind the leader. Despite the fire, Schumacher won the race, the 67th victory of his career, by getting ahead of the runner-up by 13 seconds. When the cars are going at over 300 kilometers per hour, 13 seconds means about 1 kilometer. In that year, Schumacher became the youngest world champion. Schumacher has become a seven-time world champion.
The composure and coldness of Schumacher are often praised as essential qualities for a professional racer. Once considered a luxury sport, he changed its image into one of technique, spirit and physical strength. Schumacher donated $10 million to tsunami victims. Inside and outside the race track, Schumacher wants to become a living legend.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s London correspondent.