Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Red Baron returns as the Kaiser for the Silver Arrow Team

The rumour which has been floating around for some time now has finally been officially confirmed and one of the greatest if not the great Michael Schumacher will make a comeback after a gap of 3 years to partner young German Nico Rosberg in the newly branded Mercedes Grand Prix team. Schumacher has gone through the whole circle and joins the team which backed him during his early pre-F1 career and even paid for his drive during his debut for the Jordan team in 1991 at Spa.

Schumacher a seven time former World Champion with Benetton and Ferrari has most of the records in F1 and the most important thing is that he is reuniting with Ross Brawn with whom he won all his 7 championships. To expect Schumacher to come back and start winning titles is unrealistic but then knowing Schumi, all things are possible and don’t be too shocked if he comes back and drives like he did during the time he left F1.

Niki Lauda has the most amazing comeback which resulted in him winning the title once again in 1984. But Lauda was still in his mid-thirties when he made his comeback while Schumacher would be 41 when he races once again. Age may not be a factor in motorsports to a large extend as other competitive sports but then even if Schumacher is super fit, he just cannot be 100% as good as a 24 year old driver. But knowing Schumacher, he is in for good and he will give his best.

Formula one for the last 3 years have been embroiled in one controversy to other and 2009 was one of its worst years with the race-fixing scandal which rocked the F1 world. Plus 3 manufacturers pulled off in the last one year while another one just sold of a huge stake in its team to an investment company. First Mercedes taking over Brawn was a very positive news for F1 as when the likes of Honda, Toyota, BWM and even Renault all want to exit the sport, Mercedes is involving itself more than it ever did in the last 50 years and we finally get a Silver Arrow team for the first time since the 50’s.

Schumacher making a comeback is a huge positive news for F1 and a whole new generation of fans will see the living legend go wheel to wheel with old rivals like Alonso and Button while guys like Hamilton and Vettel will get to go and test themselves against the greatest of all. Schumacher has frankly nothing to lose and his comeback is not about winning, but it’s about a personal challenge in which he will compete against the best drivers on the grid to see if he has it still in him and even if he wins a few races, that would seal the Schumacher legacy forever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Nick Heidfeld: Always at the Right Place at the Wrong Time!

Nick Heidfeld is one of the most consistent and talented F1 drivers of this generation and has the dubious record of having the most number of starts without winning a race. The German driver was part of the West McLaren young driver’s program and was also backed by the motorsport division of Mercedes Benz and was also the official test driver for the McLaren team during the 1998 and 1999 seasons. He also won the International Formula 3000 in 1999 which was the precursor to the current GP2 series.

For the 2000 season, he signed up with Prost GP and had a miserable season and he was with an unresponsive and uncompetitive car which more or less did not even last a race distance. He had 10 retirements out of 17 races and failed to score any points at all. During 2001 he signed up with Sauber and future World Champion Kimi Räikkönen was his rookie teammate. Though Heidfeld was very impressive and outperformed Kimi, the vacant McLaren seat which was created due to Mika Häkkinen’s retirement but Kimi took the seat and Heidfeld continued in Sauber for 2 more seasons with decent consistent performances.

A move to the ailing Jordan team in 2004 did him no good and after an average season with the team he was finally signed by a big team as he raced for the Williams F1 team during the 2005 season. Though he was impressive during the first half of the season, his form tapered away towards the end and also the BMW’s partnership with Williams came to an end and Heidfeld moved to the newly formed BMW Sauber team after BMW took over the Swiss team. Though BMW did not have any lofty ambitions during its first 2 seasons, Heidfeld was very consistent and was defiantly the best driver on the grid not driving a Ferrari, McLaren and Renault during this phase. Heidfeld even managed to break the most consecutive classified finishes record with 41 straight finishes which started with the 2007 French GP and ended with the 2009 Italian GP.

Though he has outperformed Kubica his teammate for 3 years in 2 out of the 3 seasons together in BMW, Kubica had a golden 2008 as till he final few races he was in contention for the driver’s title while the team actually led the constructor’s championship for a short bit and also scored its only win with Kubica winning 2008 Canadian GP with Heidfeld following him in 2nd. Things were finally looking good for Heidfeld as he was in a team which can actually challenge for the titles but 2009 was disastrous for the BMW team as due to variety of reasons, the team pulled off its F1 program and Sauber was once again an independent team.

The takeover of Brawn GP by Mercedes brought back Heidfeld into the limelight once again as due to his smooth driving style and his nationality there was talk of him partnering fellow German Nico Rosberg in an all German superteam but Heidfeld’s lack of race win along with Rosberg’s own failure to win a race so far in his career is not helping Heidfeld’s chance with Mercedes GP. He was briefly linked to a race seat with McLaren but Button’s shocking move there has removed any chances with McLaren.

Though there are still seats vacant in the grid, Heidfeld has to wait not only on Schumacher’s comeback decision but also has to wait if Kubica would turn his back on Renault as these two are the hot favourites to take the vacant Mercedes seat. If Schumacher does make a comeback, Heidfeld can re-forge his partnership with Kubica for Renault or he can go back to his old team of Sauber which will be powered by a customer Ferrari engine but time is running out for Heidfeld.

He has always been at the right place at the wrong time and if he fails to land a Mercedes GP seat, chances of Heidfeld finishing his career without a win is very high and he will have the dubious distinction of having score more points and races without a win. An unwanted record for a driver like Heidfeld, who will always be known as a very smooth operator but unless he gets a car which can win him races, we will never know if Heidfeld could have been a F1 great or just another talented youngster who failed in the big stage.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Will He or Won’t He? The Red Baron joining the Silver Arrow

The entire F1 world is waiting if the resident Red Baron and one of the all-time greats in the sport Michael Schumacher will make his miracle comeback to once again go wheel to wheel around the world with the current crop of F1 drivers. The last time Schumacher was driving, he nearly had a dream retirement but thanks to a dominant Renault led by Alonso and also Ferrari’s first engine failure in nearly 5 years robbed Schumacher of his perfect retirement. A year later his replacement at Ferrari, Kimi went on to win his first and only World Championship who now will be racing in the World Rally Championship and is not sure if he will ever comeback to F1. Schumacher’s one time rival Alonso is now part of the Ferrari team and will lead the team’s challenge for the 2010 title after a disastrous 2009 for the Italian team.

It was Mercedes who brought Schumacher into the sport by giving him his first drive with the Jordan team and so impressive was Schumacher that after just one race he signed up for the mid-field Benetton and ended up winning 2 World Championships with them and then he shocked everyone by joining the Ferrari team which has last won a title some 15 years back and within a few years made Ferrari the most dominant team and won 5 Championships with the team. Schumacher became synonymous with Ferrari and it was a partnership made in heaven with Schumi being a lifelong ambassador for the team. Though an opportunity to race for the Silver Arrow Mercedes who themselves is making a comeback after more than 50 years as a factory owned outlet will be highly enticing but giving his past with Ferrari, he may in the end may not take it.

Though Ferrari’s over reliance on Kimi resulted in Schumacher retiring a bit early and if not for his neck, he could have well made his comeback as a replacement for Massa in 2009 but then his neck may not be the only reason for Schumacher not making a comeback this year. The 2009 Ferrari was so bad that it took Kimi half a season to get used to it while Fisichella who was having a dream season with Force India failed to score any points with the car. Maybe it was wise of Schumacher not making his comeback in such a bad car.

Ross Brawn was involved with Schumacher’s all titles in both Benetton and Ferrari and Brawn in his first season as a team principle managed to win both the Championships. Ross Brawn was one of the main reasons why Mercedes decided to take over Brawn GP and Schumacher knows that Ross Brawn can deliver a car which can make him go head to head with the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull. No one expects Schumacher to win the title in his comeback, but then knowing Schumacher he will give his best and will try to win a few races for his team.

Schumacher actually has nothing to lose as if the car is very good then it is because of Schumacher and if he fails then the car is not good but knowing Schumi he will not take this path and if he makes a comeback then he will make sure he gives his best for the entire season and he has a car which will make him challenge for victories and maybe even for the title. F1 is a funny world with weirder things happening so don’t discount Schumacher making a comeback for Mercedes but then it would be a dream to see the likes of Vettel, Alonso, Massa, Hamitlon and Button going head to head with the greatest driver the sport has ever produced.