‘Michael Schumacher welcomed me to F1 with classy gesture I’ll never forget’

Sky Sports F1 pundit Karun Chandhok has praised Michael Schumacher’s character after revealing how the seven-time world champion took time out to welcome him to the sport.

Chandhok has been a key part of Sky’s F1 coverage since he joined in 2019 after his career as a racing driver across multiple disciplines came to an end. During his career, Chandhok raced in Formula E and F1, driving for HRT in 2010 and Lotus in 2011.

And upon becoming only the second Indian driver to race in F1 when he made his debut at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2010 for HRT, Chandhok revealed Schumacher’s brilliant gesture as the German icon prepared to return to the sport at the new team Mercedes after four years out of the sport.

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Speaking to OLBG, he said: “When I did my first F1 race in Bahrain in 2010, on the Thursday, the media day, Michael was the first driver that said hello to me and said 'welcome to F1'. He then spent five minutes just chatting, asking about my background and where I was from and wished me luck for my season.

“He didn't need to do that. This was the race where he was making his big comeback with Mercedes and at that time he was the biggest star, bigger than Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso, he was the biggest star that the sport had and making his big return.

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“I was a nobody, he didn't need to do that and I always really appreciated that, the fact he took that five minutes to make me feel welcome in the sport. He was a great guy and a fantastic driver.

“Michael Schumacher was one of my heroes, when Prost retired in '93 I became a big Michael fan, though I didn't like what he did with Jacques Villeneuve and Damon Hill, but overall I still appreciated his utter brilliance.

“I remember my first-ever F1 test in 2007 with Red Bull in Barcelona. I pulled out of the pit garage and Michael had come back to do a one-off test for Ferrari, he'd done his first retirement at the end of the previous season and he came back to do some testing and he was there that day.

“I came out of the garage and followed him out of the pit lane and thought to myself 'this is just bonkers'. It was my first-ever day in an F1 car and I was following Michael Schumacher in a Ferrari, it was quite nuts.

“Michael was a ferocious competitor, he liked the challenge of driving and competing and the adrenaline buzz, it's why, after his first retirement, he went off driving motorbikes and was into skydiving and all sorts of other things because he loved the buzz of being out there and doing things.”

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