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Why We Should All Learn To Love Michael Schumacher

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So, Michael Schumacher lines up fourth on the grid for the Australian Grand Prix, the opening round of the 2012 Formula One season. Not bad for a man of 43 who is in the third year of a comeback and who can still show the youngsters a thing or two on the track.

For those with a love of figures, Melbourne marks the 859th race of the 52-year-old world championship. Of the previous 858, Schumacher has contested exactly one-third of those with a win ratio of just over one in three (286 GPs, 91 wins).

Without wishing to labour the statto point, there is one more that's worth thinking about; 2012 is the 20th anniversary of Schumacher's maiden victory. In only his second season, the German took the chequered flag in the Belgian GP exactly one year after his F1 debut and at no less a circuit than Spa; even more impressive when you think that this was still the era of Senna, Mansell and Berger - all drivers that could be described as 'sorted' in the baggy parlance of the time.

In the intervening years, Schuey changed the fortunes of a famous but then-struggling team, broke many records (and Brit hearts), played a few dirty tricks, stole a title but deservedly won six more with few quibbles and ultimately changed the face of F1. And didn't that just wind up so many people?

Well, it's time to give the man his due and to hope for a Schuey victory in 2012.

The seven-time world champion has worked his backside off since joining Mercedes with few tangible rewards. The last time he stepped onto a podium (China, 2006), Tony Blair was still PM and FIA president Max Mosley's call girl indiscretions weren't even a glint in a News of the World hack's eyes. Schumacher doesn't need to put himself through all this pain just to pick up a few points from midfield but the challenge is something that still clearly drives him; either that or he follows Steve McQueen's philosophy. In the film star-cum-racing driver's famous words, "Racing, it's life. Everything else that happens before or after is just waiting."

Perhaps it is because he's already achieved so much that Schumacher can play the waiting game and help develop a team with the prospect of rewards in the long-term, but his devotion to a difficult cause can never be questioned. He was instrumental in reviving Ferrari's fortunes and he's doing the same at Mercedes.

Certainly team boss Ross Brawn believes Schumacher is the barometer for Mercedes and if he signs up for another year after his current contract ends, Brawn will know his man reckons there is fight in the F1 WO3 and the team itself. Schumacher's commitment is never less than total and it will be a great day when - and hopefully, not if - he does once again make the podium, representing another achievement as inspiring as his many others. Now that really will be something worth celebrating.

Thanks to Roger Smith and his new book, 'Formula 1 All the Races', for help with the stats; a hefty tome that is an invaluable resource for F1 fans.