Schumacher an F1 great, if not the greatest

Schumacher an F1 great, if not the greatest

LONDON - Michael Schumacher enjoyed more wins, more titles and more success than any driver in the history of Formula One but where he ranks in the pantheon of greats will be debated for decades to come.

To his fervent fans the seven times world champion will always be simply the best - a giant whose fame transcends the sport and whose name is familiar even to those with scant passion for motor racing.

'Schumi', 'Schuey', 'The Red Baron', 'Der Weltmeister' (world champion): The German won an unprecedented 91 races and set record after record including five titles in a row with glamour team Ferrari between 2000 and 2004.

In 2002, Schumacher finished every race on the podium and statistically, stands in a class of his own.

The prayers and tide of goodwill messages as the 44-year-old lies in critical condition in hospital in Grenoble after a skiing accident in the French Alps testify to his status and esteem in the sport and beyond.

It seems almost churlish at such a time to point out an alternative view, that his greatness was flawed by favouritism over team mates and a questionable sense of fair play with too many controversies.

The late triple champion Ayrton Senna remains revered, despite the Brazilian's own suspect behaviour on the track, and was mourned like no other driver after his death at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix.

Argentina's five times champion Juan Manuel Fangio and Briton Jim Clark were hugely popular, admired by team mates and rivals alike, while Ferrari fans adored Canada's Gilles Villeneuve.

Although Schumacher's popularity in his native Germany was always unquestionable, bringing out the fans in droves even in his unsuccessful comeback years with Mercedes, it was far from universal.

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