Jeremy Clarkson

Jeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on: Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher is a German. Which means that he should, by rights, be fat, loud, vulgar and in possession of some ridiculous clothes to go with his absurd facial hair.

Yet his torso is the shape of Dairylea cheese, and his face is unburdened with any form of topiary. At post-race press conferences, he is intelligent and modest when he wins, and quick to congratulate when he doesn't.

So when I met him at Silverstone this month I was rather disappointed to note that he was surly, impatient and about as communicative as that Red Indian chappie in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's nest. I have had more inspiring conversations with my pot plants. And they're dead.

I told him my wife hoped he would be world champion, and he gave me a look which made me think that I'd inadvertently said "You are the most disgusting human being I have ever had the misfortune to encounter."

Later I tried again, asking him what he thought of the Mustang. Which, judging by his reaction, translates into German as "I know that you like little boys and I'm going to tell your team manager unless you give me some money." Had he driven a Mustang before, I asked, fully expecting another withering glance from the driver's seat. "Yes," came the reply. "Where?" I asked, not realising that "where", in German, means "I hope you fall into a combine harvester, you maggot-faced creep".

So I gave up with the conversation and settled back to watch the fastest man in Formula One deal with the slowest sports car in the world.

On lap one there were other cars on the track so we pottered round. Then on lap two, instead of giving me the ride of my life, Mr Schumacher chose to demonstrate the driving positions.

On lap three, we were following Top Gear's camera car so I asked if we could see some wild and leery tailslides. We did, but sadly each one ended up with a spin. I couldn't help wondering if these gyrations might have been avoided if Mr Schumacher had kept both hands on the wheel. But who am I to question the ability of the greatest driver Germany has ever produced?

"I settled back to watch the fastest man in F1 deal with the slowest sports car in the world"

The new Mustang's body is not particularly pretty or brutal but it is big and eyecatching. Everyone turns to look and everyone knew what it was, even though this was the first in Britain.

To drive, it's American and rather good in a cheesy grin, firm handshake, hi, howya doin' sort of way. It's a big, open, honest sort of car which despite the air conditioning, cruise control, power seats, power windows, power roof and five-litre V8 engine, costs just $22,000 in the USA.

It's not very fast - ask it to go beyond 130 and it gives you a look of pure incredulity - and it treats corners with the same disdain I reserve for vegetarians.

It will do everything in its power to go straight on, but there's never a moment when you think it might go round a bend so there are no surprises. You know where you are with this car.

It also makes a good noise, unless you take it past 3,500rpm when it sounds strangled. But hey, have you ever heard Stallone hit a high C?

No, the Mustang is musclebound, dim-witted and slow but it's a good guy to have around town at night, looking mean and threatening.

It's the automotive equivalent of Carlsberg Special, which is probably the reason why Mr Schumacher was so underwhelmed. He, after all, is sponsored by Mild Seven which are the most limp and pathetic cigarettes I have ever encountered. They have about as much to do with hairy-armed Mustangs as fish.

And apart from muttering about how the Mustang had plenty of grip and wasn't bad for an American car, he told me nothing about what it was like to drive. So I set off on my own, and fell head over heels in love.

 

Jeremy Clarkson, Column

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