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.
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.
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.
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.