Friday, April 9, 2010

The Red Baron is no more but will the Silver Knight rise again?

Michael Schumacher is one of the greatest if not the greatest driver ever in motorsport history. He is a former 7 times World Champion and holds every possible record possible. But a lot of things have changed in the sport since the time he left in 2006 to what it is now. Three years may not be long enough span in other sports but in F1 lots of things have changed. Apart from the rules and regulations, 4 teams namely Honda, Toyota, MF1 & Super Aguri do not exist anymore while BMW has left Sauber while Renault is not in control of its own team.

Kimi Räikkönen, the man who was hastily pulled in as a replacement for Schumacher managed to have a stellar season during his debut for Ferrari and erased the image of Schumacher for a while after a stunning victory at the Brazilian GP to snatch the titles from the McLaren duo of Alonso and Hamilton. This was to lead another golden era for the team but then Kimi started to fade and he became very erratic. Kimi had way too many ups & downs that his teammate Massa who was expected to be the 2nd driver rose up for the challenge and fought hard for the Championship during the 2008 season and ended up losing it by a point to Hamilton despite winning more races through the season.

2009 is a year which Ferrari should forget as they had their worst ever showing since the Schumacher era but Massa’s accident nearly made Schumacher to make his comeback for the Ferrari team but then his neck was not yet healed and instead longtime test driver Luca Badoer was Massa’s replacement while after just 2 races he himself was replaced by fellow Italian Giancarlo Fisichella who’s long dream of racing for the Scuderia was fulfilled. Brawn and Jenson Button managed to win both the titles and for a while there was talk of both Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld both linked with both McLaren and Brawn. But with the exit of manufacturers like BMW and Toyota, the driver market was turned upside down and the signing of Alonso, the man who beat Schumacher to 2 World Championships with Ferrari ended in the exit of Kimi.

The most shocking turn of events began when Mercedes decided to pull out from the McLaren team and decided to take over the Brawn team. Though Jenson Button was expected to stay, he ended up moving to McLaren to prove that he did not win the title only because of his car while Nico Rosberg after months of speculation joined the newly reformed Mercedes GP team. Though Nick Heidfeld was expected to partner Rosberg in an all German team, the team lacked the star value which rivals McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull had and both their drivers were yet to win a race. Ross Brawn has send an SOS to long term friend Schumacher and the unthinkable happened. The Red Baron quit Ferrari to join rivals Mercedes and made one of the most dramatic comeback in sports by racing for the Silver Arrow team.
Schumacher is 41 years old and made his F1 debut when Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari was just one year old. Though he is very fit, he has not been racing or even testing during the last 3 seasons and him making a comeback and finishing in points at the Bahrain GP itself is an awesome achievement which only he could have done it. Last season Rubens Barrichello who was Button’s teammate had one podium finish after the 1st 3 races while Button won 2 races and managed a 3rd in the other race. Though Barrichello was quick and was racing in F1 without a break, he was totally outpaced and outclassed by Button during the 1st half of the season.

This season Rosberg who was always been a good driver but never had the car to win races even now does not have a car which can win races. Mercedes is improving but no way is it close to Red Bull, Ferrari or the McLaren cars. It is a decent car which can challenge the other 3 teams but it is not like Rosberg is winning with the current car while Schumacher is failing to finish races. It is still early days and if Mercedes does have a car which can challenge for wins, Schumacher will be in the hunt. It may take some time but Schumacher will win more races before he retires permanently.

The talk of Schumacher’s comeback as a failure is very premature and childish as also Schumacher’s 9 points compared to Rosberg’s 35 points is also because of the new points system. It is early days and it is a long season, once Mercedes is up to pace, Schumacher will be back. Ruling out a legend like that is just plain stupid and however good you are, if the car is not fast enough you just cannot produce results. A good example of this was Alonso during the last season when the Renault was just not performing. Schumacher is more motivated than ever and by the end of the season if Mercedes do have a car which can be quick, expect some wheel to wheel racing between Schumacher & the young guns like Hamilton and Vettel.

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