Dubai: While Lewis Hamilton took the plaudits after his breathtaking triumph over Max Verstappen at the Formula One Hungarian Grand Prix, it almost flew under the radar.
A young pup called Michael Schumacher claimed his maiden win on the Formula 2 undercard to the big race.
This is Mick junior The son of legendary seven-time F1 drivers’ champion Michael who has been receiving life-saving treatment after he struck his head on a rock while skiing in an off-piste area of Meribel in December 2013.
The emotion was palpable as a Schumacher stood on the top step of a podium on a F1 weekend. We have seen Michael Sr dominate for a decade and even brother Ralph claim a victory or six.
The racing faithful had been spending a lot of time in mourning and here is finally a chance to celebrate.
Schumacher Sr’s explosion onto the scene as the hottest new driver back in 1991 gave the sport a breath of fresh air that had been under a cloud since Ayrton Senna died following his horrific crash in the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix. Many others have since passed, both in and out of the cockpit. We most recently said goodbye to the brilliant Niki Lauda.
The scenes in Hungary felt every bit as if we were back there in 1994 as dad claimed his first world drivers’ title with the unheralded Benetton.
Can we dare to dream that we will have another legend in the making?
Max Verstappen was trumpeted as the best of the next generation of young drivers with his brash style and unforgiving manners on the track that have seen him clock up two victories this season against much stronger opposition.
Lando Norris, Alex Albon and George Russell have all earned seats in the top tier of racing this campaign, but — despite plenty of offers and some time testing for Ferrari in Catalunya during the off-season — Mick Schumacher has decided to keep his head down and get some experience under the belt with Italian marque Prema in F2.
And now he is reaping the rewards.
Many a career has stalled by making the leap up to the big boys too soon. But Mick seems to have a cool head on his shoulders and is in no rush to get to the top.
All of which could mean that we could get a dream team of Hamilton and Schumacher together for Mercedes next season.
1994year Schumacher Sr claimed his first world drivers’ title with the unheralded Benetton
Think about it. Valtteri Bottas is clearly on his way out at the British/German marque after another poor showing in Hungary. Reserve driver Esteban Ocon is just that — a reserve driver.
The only other man who could slide into a Mercedes cockpit for 2020 is Daniel Ricciardo, and he has a lengthy contract and lots of legal paperwork to overcome, should he make the switch from Renault.
So, the stage is set for a young Schumacher to take the final step up and fill his father’s gigantic shoes.
And what a story it would be if he could do it alongside Hamilton at Mercedes as the Briton looks to overhaul Schumacher Sr’s record of seven drivers’ championships.
Mick’s overalls bore a tribute to his father — “Keep Fighting Michael” — on Sunday.
The 20-year-old is so like his dad that you would be forgiven to thin the great man was back.
While that is impossible, both his mother, Corinna, and his manager, Sabine Kehm, were on the pit wall to celebrate his triumph. Now the young man can give his father the greatest gift of all by emulating him as a F1 champion. In which car seems to be the driving question now.
Shielded from the spotlight
Throughout his formative years, Mick Schumacher has been scrupulously shielded from the spotlight. When he first competed in karting, he raced under his mother’s maiden name, Betsch, to deflect any unwanted hype.
Even as his profile rises, that policy remains in place. Sabine Kehm, who was the also the spokeswoman for Michael, guards Mick’s privacy ferociously, in keeping with the code of omerta that surrounds his father’s condition. Since his father struck his head on a rock in an off-piste area of Meribel in December 2013, family members have not provided any substantive updates on his health.
For Mick, the magnitude of a victory in Hungary, where Michael was so consistently successful, could hardly be exaggerated. “It is very special,” he said. “I’m also thinking back to last year, when I won for the first time in Formula Three at Spa, where my dad was also very comfortable.”
Schumacher took the F3 title last year, and has since become a member of Ferrari’s driver academy. The adaptations to F2 have so far proved more difficult, but there are growing signs that he is finding his range. He fended off Matsushita with aplomb in Hungary, despite the Japanese driver lurking within striking distance for the majority of the race.
Even with this win, Schumacher lies a distant 11th in the F2 standings, with Holland’s Nyck de Vries leading the championship by 30 points after 16 races. The Canadian Nicholas Latifi, widely expected to join Williams next year in place of Robert Kubica, lies second.
Schumacher’s previous highest finish was a fourth place in Austria, and his mentors have since advised that he would benefit from a second season at this level, rather than being prematurely thrust into the relentless scrutiny that would surely come in F1.
All that counted here, however, was the poignancy of seeing a Schumacher as a winner once more.
— With inputs from Telegraph Group Ltd, London, 2019