We never doubted, we never lost faith...we knew that sooner or later, Michael will be able to step back on the podium. But recent circumstances made it seem that it would be more later rather than sooner. In 5 out of 7 races of the 2012 season, Michael has failed to finish a race due to mechanical failures. It seemed that the curse will not break and the bad luck just continue to pile up. The doubters increased in number, the team came under scrutiny by the fans as it seemed there was some conspiracy going on behind closed doors.
But Sunday's European Grand Prix in Valencia became part of Michael's success story. It was an action packed race, thanks a lot to the unpredictable 2012 Pirelli spec tires. The street race in Valencia was traditionally a snore-fest, but last Sunday, it was just the opposite of that. After the disappointing qualifying in Saturday where Michael failed to make it to Q3 (which was, according to him, due to his own error), I, like other Schumi fans didn't expect much during the race. Some say it will just be damage limitation from here—assuming his car holds up and doesn't breakdown. Even Michael said himself that he didn't expect anything from the race during the start of the race or even during the race itself!
But Lady Luck finally decided to smile down on Michael this time. Thanks to 4 drivers dropping away in the last stages of the race, a different strategy from the rest of the drivers' infront and great driving despite under pressure from Webber's RedBull for the whole last stint (yeah, yeah, it's just Webber, but still there must be some pressure there..), Michael gobbled up 8 places in the last 14 laps to end up in third place at the very last lap of the race! Some say he was lucky because of the DNFs of Vettel and Grosjean and Hamilton's coming together with Maldonado, but that is part of racing. When presented with opportunities such as those given to Michael last Sunday, he did not waste them, but instead took advantage of them. The Meister was so busy overtaking drivers whose tires were just gone, that he didn't even know where he finished when he crossed the finish line. And it was a pleasant surprise to hear from his team that he was “Third! On the podium!”.
It was an extremely happy feeling, it was as if Michael has won the race or another championship! Everyone was congratulating him, even the Ferrari mechanics who were waiting for Alonso to arrive at the parc ferme were cheering him on.
And even before Michael got out of the car, he was already grinning from ear to ear!
Just like the old days, he congratulated, hugged and kissed his every mechanic that was waiting for him in parc ferme. It was just 3rd place but after all the hardships and criticisms they have faced, you couldn't blame Michael and his team for being extra happy for just making it on the podium. It took him 45 races since his comeback and 99 races since 2006 to step back on the podium.
And joining him on the podium was no other than the 2 drivers that succeeded him in Ferrari. Kimi and Alonso. I generally do not like Alonso, but I didn't mind him winning this one as he did deserve the win (and he respects Michael now than during his Renault days, so I don't hate him as much as before—yet).
Michael was truly and genuinely happy during the podium ceremonies and during the press conference. He thanked his team and everyone who continued to believe in him even though it seemed that things will never get better. He was probably so excited to express his gratitude that when asked to say something in his native language, he automatically expressed his feelings in fluent English! When he realized he was speaking English rather than German, everyone laughed with him!
This podium finish was just amazing after waiting for it for so long. For once, we, Schumi fans didn't have to mend our broken hearts after the Sunday race. For once, the team didn't have to say, “we'll do better next race and give Michael a reliable car”. For once the critics and doubters were silenced. It is such a happy feeling to see Michael so happy and elated. This podium finish would truly help his mechanics believe that they indeed can do it and work with Michael to produce great results. I'm sure this just made them all hungry for that 92nd win. I'm sure they all would want to taste that champagne again.
And for us, no doubt we will continue to wait patiently for that elusive first win of the Meister in a Silver Arrow. We got a taste of the good times once again. It is drug that gives us a natural high! No doubt we want to experience it again. But whatever happens, our support for Michael will never waiver. In fact, it has just been notched up again. It may sound cliché to say we are behind Schumi in good times and in bad..but that's simply the way it is!