Former Formula 1 driver David Coulthard of Scotland is among the many popular figures in the sport who have spoken kindly about seven-time F1 champ Michael Schumacher of Germany, who figured in a life-threatening skiing accident on Sunday and remains in a medically induced coma after a brain operation.
But while the others were content to just tweet or give the press one-liner tributes, Coulthard went out of his way to write a flattering piece on Schumacher in The Telegraph, a British newspaper. "In my opinion," he wrote, "it (the outpouring of praises) constitutes long-overdue recognition of Michael’s status as a true sporting great. I only hope and pray that he pulls through to see what nice things people have been saying about him."
This is especially impressive coming from a one-time fierce rival and critic of Schumacher, who was widely criticized in some quarters for his perceived "dirty tactics" on the racetrack. Coulthard and Schumacher dueled when the former raced for McLaren from 1996 to 2004 and the latter competed for the feared Ferrari team from 1996 to 2006. Coulthard was mostly seen as the number-two driver behind teammate and two-time champion Mika Hakkinen of Finland, but finished second overall behind Schumacher in the 2001 season.
"The truth is I do not believe that Michael has ever truly received the praise or recognition that his stunning achievements merited," Coulthard wrote. "And I say that now with the benefit of hindsight."
This is our favorite part:
"For years, Michael was the perfect pantomime villain, particularly in this country (UK): German, of course, ruthlessly efficient, ultra-aggressive. Whereas previous greats such as Sir Jackie Stewart or Juan Manuel Fangio left the door open to their rivals when racing, for fear of making what could easily have been fatal contact, Michael went all out in his pursuit of victory. Sometimes he overstepped the mark--Jerez in 1997 and Rascasse in 2006 spring to mind--and those indiscretions made him unpalatable to the sporting purist. He was marked down by some, including me, as a tainted champion. But you cannot argue with his achievements. At the end of the day, he had the same rules and the same race marshals as the rest of us. And he destroyed us."
Wow. Such generous words from Coulthard. For the rest of what he wrote, visit The Telegraph's website here.