Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Guten tag, I must be going..

And so, in the light of The Worst Kept Secret In Formula One being revealed (see previous post re Lewis Hamilton's future employment prospects) we must bid farewell to the man in whose place young Mr Hamilton shall be racing next year.

Yes, at the ripe old age of 43, Herr Michael 'Schumi' Schumacher is hanging up the old crash hat & racing boots for the second time in his career and sloping off to spend more time with his millions, sorry, family.

When the newly re-branded Mercedes team announced that team principal (and man whose name resided above the factory door for 12 months) Ross Brawn had lured his old pal out of retirement to drive for him a couple of years ago, the response from Formula One fans was mixed to say the least.

Whilst some were ecstatic that the man who'd chalked up a stunning seven World Championship titles would be returning to show the current crop of PR-friendly automata just what a real racer looked like, others feared - justifiably it seems - that Michael would have lost his edge in the 3 years he'd been sat at home observing proceedings on what would most likely have been one of the biggest tellys in existence..

On the face of it, Michael's presence at the pointy end of the new venture had all the hallmarks of yet another smart move from master tactician Ross Brawn & the suitably well-funded Mercedes outfit. Whilst he would undoubtedly be a bit rusty in the new style F1 car with its considerably-reduced amounts of downforce and fully-slick tyres, it wouldn't take this wily old stager long to get back up to speed and start putting in competitive laps on a par with his widely-admired rising star team mate, Nico Rosberg. As it transpired, Michael seemed to struggle against the competition, and whilst he never actually found himself consistently lapping at the tail end of races with the likes of Marussia, it's pretty telling that his best result at the time of writing is a third place on the podium at Valencia behind two other World Champions, Fernando Alonso & Kimi Raikkonen.

The general consensus amongst the F1 fraternity it would seem is that whilst it was nice to have the Silver (née Red) Baron back in the mix, it's probably good that he safely bows out now with dignity rather than squandering his inestimable reputation trundling around every other Sunday in something your Grandmother could probably out run in her automatic Micra..

Personally-speaking, I was never Schumi's biggest fan - especially after that incident in Adelaide in 1994 - but I've always maintained a healthy, if grudging respect for his metronomic ability to think his way to victory after victory and, despite myself, found that I was eager to see him put a few of the new hotshoe breed in their place.
Realistically though, I reckon that was always a bit of a long shot - yes, Niki Lauda & Alain Prost proved in the past that you could come back, but for Michael, those three years away from the bleeding edge of competition had proved too many. Perhaps it was age, perhaps it was the realisation that he just didn't need to be doing this anymore - who knows, but I for one am glad he gave it a shot at least.

Mach's gut, Michael & thanks for playing..

David Wakefield.

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