The best way to find out what winning really means is to ask someone who has achieved the top spot on more than numerous occasions. So, who better to talk about success than karting and racing legend Bernd Schneider?
The best way to find out what winning really means is to ask someone who has achieved the top spot on more than numerous occasions. In order to dive deep into the feelings around being first to race past the chequered flag, accomplishing everything that you set out to do, and never stopping until you’ve achieved your goal, there are only a handful of people who can truly tell us what we need to know. So, who better to talk about success than karting and racing legend Bernd Schneider?
There are few German racers who can say that they’ve nabbed the top spot of Junior World Karting Champion. In fact, there’s only one. “I became the karting world champion. I’m so far the only German [person] who achieved that. I’m pretty proud about that,” Schneider says, modestly.
At the age of five, Schneider’s karting career began. From the beginning, he knew what winning could look and feel like, though, as he says, when you’re young you’re just focussed on having fun. It’s not until you get older that you realise the pressures of wanting to be the best. But, however, the best is what he became. The Junior World Karting Championship came in 1980, and from there on out, Schneider’s record of podium placements were not in short supply – through DTM (German Touring Car Championship), the Macau Grand Prix, FIA GT Championships, and various other competitions, the driver’s career is rightly bejewelled with showstopping moments.
“I'm not the guy who is just doing it for fun. If I compete in the championship, especially in racing, I really want to win,” he says. “If you participate in a race, it's always the chequered flag, you want to see it first.
And with such a long and successful career, spanning from infancy to gamechanger, Schneider is able to speak about how his concept of winning has changed and what it means to be perceived as a champion. As an inspirational figure as part of the AMG Driving Academy, Schneider is now passing on his knowledge of racing, success and determination onto the future generation of drivers. And as someone who believes that if there’s no chance of winning, there’s no point in playing, Schneider is no doubt a trusted source when learning about what it takes to be a winner.
Find out more about what Bernd Schneider had to say about his career, what success means to him, and what the future of racing might look like …
How can you describe the early days of your racing career?
I started karting at five-years-old. With driving, I was lucky that I had a dad, or a whole family rather, who supported me a lot. And then I started racing at 11. At 16, I became the karting world champion. I’m so far the only German who achieved that. I’m still very proud about that.
What did you think were the characteristics of a champion when you were younger?
When I was young, the only passion I had was racing. And karting was the best way to start. My biggest target was always to get into Formula One and become world champion one day. Though, the day after I had become a karting world champion, someone came up to me and said that if I achieve something special, such as being world champion, it puts so much pressure on your shoulders for the future, because from that moment on, everywhere you go, you are a world champion and everybody wants to beat you. He was absolutely right, because then I went into DTM and I started winning the championships. After my second win, I came second in the championship. Everybody approached me and said, ‘what went wrong?’ My point is: the more success you have, the more pressures that are placed on your shoulders. When you're young, you’re only thinking about winning, you're not thinking about anything else around you. But if you reach certain levels of success, then the pressure starts to mount on your shoulders.
So did winning become something that you wanted to achieve every time?
One reason for doing this kind of sport is to win. Of course, you want to be the best. When you start karting, you do it for fun. But even in karting you have to invest quite a lot of money. As a kid, you know already that this is not something that you can do just for fun because of that financial aspect. If you really want to be a champion, you have to be fully concentrated, and you have to work hard.
Who do you think has been the biggest gamechanger in racing?
There is not one biggest [gamechanger] because in racing, or in all kinds of sports, you change the game all the time. As soon as you think you understand the game, the game has evolved again. You always have to pay attention so that you never miss a change in the game. Every time there are some new changes. It can be the rules, it can be physical, it can be the mental training, the techniques, there are so many things… You are always learning and you always have to change your game and adapt yourself.
You've said before about how if there's no chance of winning, then you don't want participate do it… What more can you say about that?
I'm not someone who is just doing it for fun. If I compete in a championship, especially in racing, I really want to win. That’s the main reason I’m going to go for the top spot.
What about the AMG Driving Academy? How passionate do you feel about leading up people who are passionate about racing?
As an instructor in our Driving Academy, passing your knowledge on to others is also a form of winning. Winning does not just mean being the first person to see the chequered flag in a race. If the student is picking up the driving skills that you have explained, then they are leaving our academy as a better driver. If they get the car under control, and they enjoy the event, then we have won that race.
So how has your idea of what winning is changed throughout the years?
If you participate in a race, it's always the chequered flag that we want to see first. And you want to beat everybody and show your potential. In racing, sometimes the unexpected wins are the ones you enjoy the most. But on the other hand, sometimes when you win against an opponent who is retiring, we can’t enjoy it as much because perhaps your performance was not as strong as it could be. That's what keeps you pushing to say ‘I have to improve, I have to move the team, I have to prove myself to win next time’.
Having participated in and won so many races, how do you think racing has changed throughout your career?
Racing changes all the time. If we look at Formula One to Four, all of these now have simulators [for the drivers to train in]. In my day, there were no simulators, so that meant if you wanted to improve you had to go to the track and be tested a lot. [In karting], now people come with big trailers to the racetracks with data analysing and video analysing systems. So, it has changed a lot.
What do you think the future race is going to look like?
The future will always bring something new. I say that, especially in motorsports, the change in technology will be a big challenge for everyone – for the drivers, for the manufacturers, for the cars. At the moment, nobody knows which direction it is going to go in. But in my opinion, I think that the next 10 years will be the biggest challenge to motorsports. I am really looking forward to seeing where the vehicle technology ends up.