Friday, July 09, 2010

F1 Guest Post: Stop Picking on Michael Schumacher!

I think I must be like someone who gives up smoking. There is a certain kind of person who once they finally quit the habit, become crusaders of anti-smoking. From a position of defending their right to go off and have a cigrarette whenever they want, they become the scourge of anyone lighting up in their vicinity.

For many years, not liking and not appreciating Michael Schumacher was my 40-a-day habit. I thought he was artful and clever but not as outstanding brilliant as people made out. In 1994 he may or may not have driven into Damon Hill deliberately to win his first World Championship - but the fact that no Schumi fan could deny is that under pressure in Adelaide he cracked and drove straight off the road.


These days that is all water under the bridge. Schumacher's return to the sport has added a layer of interest that is incalculable. If F1 wanted to publicise itself to the wavering fan out there then it would cost millions of dollars in a global media campaign to push the brand.

Michael's decision to return to the sport must have been worth tens of millions of dollars of free advertising for F1. Not only that, but it drew back a lot of the fans who wanted to see if the old rascal could still win, and some who maybe just wanted to see him lose.

Schumacher's name on the grid adds a lustre to the sport like no other. It would be tough to lose Alonso and Hamilton because they are like the Jacob Black and Edward Cullen of F1 (that's a Twilight reference in case you missed it). i.e. they're always at it. But former Champions like Raikkonen and Villeneuve just melted away from the sport with little reaction except from their home fans.

Should we not have Michael occupying the second Mercedes then it would be filled by Nick Heidfeld. You see my point.

Former drivers have been queuing up to have a go at him recently now that the early win and early podium have failed to show up, and these last two races he's been blasted. And it's beginning to annoy me.
In Canada he was unlucky to come up against someone as tenacious as Robert Kubica who once Michael closed the door on him was prepared to keep his foot in and stick two wheels on the grass - the rest was downhill after that. In Valencia he had the potential to get his car in the top five but was stymied with the same kind of Safety Car bad luck that saw Felipe Massa banished to also-ran status from a very promising position.

So far this season Michael has shown us that he is the thinking driver, prepared to go for alternative strategies when Plan A goes out of the window. We're lucky just to have him here. He adds a fantastic benchmark of achievement to the series.

Pundits and commentators have been saying that he's harming his legacy and undermining the achievements of previous seasons with Benetton and Ferrari, but so what. The only person who's qualified to judge whether that matters or not is Michael Schumacher himself. It's his legacy.

Michael likes the cut and thrust of racing cars. He also likes the challenge of developing cars and he's hardly even started that yet. Right now Mercedes are caught up in the 2010 development race with Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari, and are split between pushing in 2010 and planning ahead for 2011.

We will only see the true Schumi effect in 2011 - 2010 looks to be about recalibrating and making notes. For those who question whether he should be on the grid or not, who would you sooner have - one of the career cul-de-sac F1 drivers or a GP2 unknown, or a seven-times World Champion...? It's not tricky.

Andrew Davies

1 comment:

  1. Has it occured to anyone besides myself that Schui is here this season as the designated 'test driver'? His job is to test the bits and pieces so a decent car can be fielded next season. Results are what they are.....a combination of the bit's and pieces, vs. whatever the other guys are running that week-end. I doubt seriously that MGP had any delusions about being competitive ( at the front ) this season. Look at the work record of MS and Ross when they first got together.....1 season of 'race testing', then a season of seriously competing, and then the championships began. What ever made anyone think that this association would be any different ?

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