The 26th of October, and the 7 times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is honoured with a Prince of Asturias prize. The jury said they wanted to reward him not only for his sporting achievements, but also for his humanitarian work around the world. Among the other nominees for the prestigious Spanish prize, the ex-footballer Zinedine Zidane and the entire Iraqi football team – champions of Asia. EuroNews met Schumacher in Salzbourg….
EuroNews: Michael Schumacher, congratulations of the 2007 Prince of Asturias sporting award. You won for great sporting career and your humanitarian achievements. What does the prize mean to you?
Schumacher: You’ve just said it. To be honoured, not only for the sporting aspect but also for social commitments is an interesting honour, especially as this distinguiushed prize is something quite extraordinary. In that context, it’s a pleasure for me. Particularly because of the great times and the success we enjoyed together at Ferrari, to get this award a year after retiring, it’s a very emotional moment.
EuroNews: When you hung-up your helmet about a year ago, you said you would try to get bored. How is the boredom coming along?
Schumacher: It’s very interesting, but boredom has never taken hold. I began by saying I’d keep my diary as clear as I could – spend lots of time at home. But it’s quite the opposite. I’ve had so many great things to do that the year has gone really quickly. The difference is that I have the freedom now to decide myslef what I want to do, without the pressure of time. To have that freedom at my age is a luxury, and I’m looking forward to the coming years.
EuroNews: As a Formula One driver, you were renowned as someone who could focus on what’s essential – what’s important for you now?
Schumacher: Firstly, without question it’s my family, but now I can concentrate on my hobbies, like football. I’ve also got enough time now for frequent motorbike rides. And I’ve also got my work as an adviser to Ferrari for their road cars. These are the things I can spend more time on, and which give me a lot of pleasure.
EuroNews: You’re a record breaking world champion, and you’ve set virtually all of the records in Formula One. Looking back, how do you view your career?
Schumacher: I never spend much time dwelling on my career or the past. I have always lived in the present or the future – and in that sense I haven’t changed.
EuroNews: Even so, maybe you could tell me which of your seven world titles was the best?
Schumacher: The best, and at the same time, the most important was the title in 2000. Ferrari hadn’t won a title for 21 years. After having tried and failed several times because of mistakes I made, and due to other circumstances in 1997 and 1998, it was a big, very emotional moment in 2000 to take the title to Maranello, and to hear the church-bells ringing in the town.
EuroNews: You were hailed for your victories, but if you made a mistake, or were accused of making a mistake, you were often strongly criticised not only in the media but also by some colleagues. How did you deal with that?
Schumacher: You know, in life, it’s easy to latch onto bad things quickly, or focus on the negative. But you can also take positive things from those experiences. That’s what I’ve always tried during in those critical moments. The positive aspect is that I would never have been criticised so strongly if I hadn’t been so successful. Success breeds jealousy, and you have to work hard to counter it.
EuroNews: You’ve had many battles on the track – among others with Jacques Villeneuve, Mika Hakkinen and of course Fernando Alonso. Which stood out for you?
Schumacher: I’ve often talked about the duel with Mika Hakkinen because, personally I enjoyed the experience greatly. We were colleagues who were having a true battle on the track, and even though we didn’t have a private relationship, in the sense that we were friends or spent holidays together, we simply had mutual respect. I found it great to be able to concentrate on the essential things, and that we didn’t have to worry about battles at the trackside.
EuroNews: Battles at the trackside? Can you give an example?
Schumacher: As you know, there were one or two who tried to stir things up at critical moments, or who tried to inflame criticism. I don’t think it makes any sense to name names, but those who can remember surely know who I’m talking about.
EuroNews: What do you think of Lewis Hamilton?
Schumacher: I think there’s only one thing to say about Lewis Hamilton. He’s a boon for Formula One. With Lewis Hamilton, Formula One has gained lots of excitment. He’s a young man who arrived as a rookie and showed everyone how it’s done. No, you can only say positive things about Lewis Hamilton. He’s a great guy who’s brought a breath of fresh air. Sure, he’s got all the experience of Go-Karting and the other classes behind him which have prepared him well. You can’t underestimate that, but you mustn’t underestimate his extraordinary performance this year either.