Germany applauds Schumacher finale
|By Erik Kirschbaum
||Monday, October 23rd 2006, 09:16 GMT
Even the most cynical sceptics of Michael Schumacher's ability had to be impressed with his daring dash through the field in the final Formula One race of his illustrious career, German newspapers said on Monday.
Although most Germans are fans of the seven-time world champion and proudly wear his red Ferrari colours, there have been a fair number of detractors in a home country that has ties to several other Formula One teams.
Until Sunday, that is, when the 37-year-old Schumacher's riveting ride through the field from last to fourth at the Brazilian Grand Prix turned the final naysayers into believers, newspapers said.
"Schumi said goodbye with the most thrilling catch-up race of his career," wrote Bild newspaper, which devoted three full pages to Schumacher on Monday after 12 on Sunday.
"He fought his way back from last place to fourth with one of the best races in his 16-year career," the daily wrote.
The General-Anzeiger in Bonn, near Schumacher's hometown of Kerpen, said his fighting spirit made believers out of his enemies and brought tears to the eyes of his legions of fans.
"Even those who have absolutely no interest in motor sport could not help being captivated by his final run," it said of the race watched by 12 million Germans.
"The hopes for an eighth title were minimal but despite technical problems and a punctured tyre, the champion raced like a young rookie full of cheek and fury - chapeau Schumi!"
The Rheinische Post, published in Duesseldorf, called it "Schumacher magic, one last time."
"Even if he didn't make it to the podium, Schumacher showed one of the best races ever. He squeezed everything out of his Ferrari engine as if he were squeezing on a lemon, had one 'all or nothing' lap after another, and passed rival after rival."
The Berliner Zeitung said he had deserved a more glamorous farewell with a spot on the podium if not his 92nd career victory.
But it added his inspired rally stole the show, especially in passing Giancarlo Fisichella and Kimi Raikkonen.
"He drove a fabulous race in his final outing and didn't even make it to the podium," it wrote.
"With audacious, reckless and truly championship manoeuvres, he even passed Fisichella and his Ferrari successor Raikkonen to grab fourth place."
Chancellor Angela Merkel paid tribute in an open letter to Bild newspaper, putting him in a line of German sporting heroes with Max Schmeling, Franz Beckenbauer and Steffi Graf.
"You used your talent and your German virtues - hard-work and a tireless will to succeed - to get to the top," Merkel wrote.
"And even for those outsiders who don't well understand Formula One, you enriched the sport with your brilliance."