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Ralf's a little shit

FEATURE BY MIKE LAWRENCE
19/07/2002

I think that our Great and Glorious Leader, Chris Balfe, has been soft on Ralf Schumacher, the one man in the ten-year history of the Goodwood Festival of Speed, who threw his toys out of the pram when he was asked to sign on for the insurance policy.

At the Festival, I had a good chat with Emerson Fittipaldi who was gracious. I was gathering comments for my forthcoming biography of Colin Chapman (it will be out late September or early October), and Emmo could not have been more pleasant. I seem to recall that Emmo remains the youngest World Champion, he is one of the few double Champions, also a two-times winner of the Indianapolis 500 and the 1989 CART Champion.

Would someone like to remind me of what Ralf Schumacher has achieved?

Emmo signed on, can someone explain to me why Ralf is such a superstar that he cannot write his name on an insurance chit?

Ralf says that he doesn't like coming to England. I'd say that was a bit of a problem for anyone in Formula One, let alone someone driving for Williams. Sir Frank is a patriot of an order which almost frightens me, and I wear a rose on St. George's Day and have done all my adult life. When I am asked to write my nationality on a form I always write 'English' because I want no truck with the Welsh, the Scotch or the Irish.

Why doesn't Ralf like coming to England? He has never had less than a terrific welcome from the fans here. He has been happy to come to England to drive for Jordan and Williams. Englishmen can actually distinguish between Michael Schumacher and Ralf. On the whole, we liked Ralf until he disgraced himself.

Ralf has shown himself to be a little shit, there is no other term. Consider some of the drivers and riders who have signed the insurance sheet at Goodwood: Mario Andretti, Giacomo Agostini, Barrie Sheene, Phil Read, Sammy Miller, Sir Stirling, Sir Jack, Sir Jackie, young master Surtees, Emmo, Damon, I surely don't need to go on.

Rubens Barrichello was terrific when he came to Goodwood. Johnny Herbert was everyone's favourite. Eddie Irvine made himself available to fans when he came. The great Froilan Gonzalez was welcomed with open arms. He arrived looking grumpy and walked to a V16 BRM whereupon the paddock broke into spontaneous applause.

People asked for his autograph, but they did not produce scraps of paper. One guy had a 1953 Goodwood programme which Gonzales had signed in 1953, another produced a period photograph. Gonzalez was visibly moved. He left the paddock a very happy man.

Does Ralf really put himself above Mario Andretti? Or Sir Stirling? Or Emmo? Or Stewart, Brooks. Phil Hill and Brabham. Dream on, boy, and you are only a boy. Let me tell you, Ralf, you are a boy in a man's world. Men, real men, do not throw their toys out of the pram when asked to sign a sheet. It was an insurance sheet, for Heaven's sake. And you were contracted, you signed the contract, you little shit.

I defer to no man in my admiration of Mario Andretti, but why should I become excited about Ralf Schumacher?

Hey, I signed on. That is what you do when you cover an event. We call it the 'death chit'. I have signed death chits since I was a teenager. When I was a teenager I once told Jim Clark where to go. I once put Jim Clark in his place and he did not argue because that is the sort of guy I am.

I was a paddock marshal at Rufforth in 1959 and Jim came up to me and asked where he should park his Lister-Jaguar. I looked at my sheet and said, "Slot Nine, Mr. Clark." He thanked me. I put that Jim Clark in his place and no mistake. It was slot nine.

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