Sunday, May 23, 2010

What lies in store for Michael Schumacher?

Michael Schumacher's return to the adrenaline filled high speed world of Formula One at the start of the 2010 season delighted the hearts of many. The competition in Formula One had only increased since his retirement, and everyone expected a ferocious slugfest of a living legend, Michael Schumacher with the likes of Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, and Sebastian Vettel. However, after a subdued re-start to Schumacher’s Formula One career, these days an oracle pops up at every nook and corner to write his obituary. Negativity is being assiduously searched and presented. One such writer, about Schumacher’s comeback decision says "the vain folly of a middle-aged man...who made the mistake of kidding himself that he still has that old magic.” Others feel that after his finishes at 6th and 10th place in the first two races in Bahrain and Australia, the intimacy, the enigma and the ineffable passion with which he drove till the end of 2006 season are missing. It seems ‘triumph’, Schumacher’s companion on most occasions prior to his retirement, has several appointments elsewhere these days. In the recently concluded race at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, he managed to finish 4th. The images of the old Schumacher who was never willing to give an inch flashed for a few moments during the qualifying sessions as he went 3rd fastest during both the sessions. Later, he expressed his confidence in his car but his critics weren’t convinced. The chinks in Schumacher’s armory were revealed at the Chinese grand prix when Lewis Hamilton was chasing him. Both were placed at the 6th and 7th positions respectively and a comfortable gap of 8 seconds separated the two. By the end of lap 14, Hamilton was at a touching distance and was already looking for an opening. A few laps later he eventually managed to get better off Schumacher. In the end, Hamilton finished 2nd while Schumacher managed to earn only a solitary point by finishing 10th. Sebestian Vettel and Felipe Massa also went past Schumacher in that race. The Ferrari which he drove till his retirement in 2006 was designed specifically keeping Schumacher in mind. The two looked inseparable. It appeared that with the Mercedes, he is just not able find his balance and rhythm.

Schumacher in his hey days consistently regained the World Championship for Ferrari, and stood on the podium as a World Champion not once or twice but 7 times. He thus established a legacy of excellence and was right there amongst the legends of Formula One. He was 37 and at his prime when he retired. It was a well made decision to retire when he was racing well considering all sportsmen want to be remembered forever and therefore they choose to retire during their peak. Then why did he come back? Legends are humans too, and it is a tendency of humans to want more. The healthy competition between drivers in this season and the urge to prove his mettle once again would have made him change his mind. Nicky Lauda too like Schumacher made a comeback and won the world championship by a mere half point way back in 1984. Schumacher should look to pull out a leaf from Lauda’s book. His performance so far has only earned him wiggling eyebrows. But he has been through the vim and vigor of Formula One before and is capable of recalling optimism from the ruins it lies under.

So, what lies in store of Schumacher? This would largely depend upon the fight he is willing to put in. His fans believe he has it in him to silence his critics. But when would that happen? No innuendo. And whether Ross Brawn and Mercedes have that much patience remains to be seen.
Chelsea – The deserving champions

Chelsea eventually became the English Premier League champion last week end. They are without any doubt, the deserving winners this year. Didier Drogba, the epitome of Chelsea’s iron will won this year’s Golden boot award for scoring maximum number of goals (29) this season. The only team which came close to Chelsea was the team who won the championship for three consecutive years, Manchester United. They lost by only a solitary point. As expected, the title race went down to the wire. Many however feel that Manchester United’s title dreams ended when Chelsea won against Liverpool the previous weekend. Manchester United, were left stranded and have themselves to blame as they were unable to win important matches like the one they lost against Burnley at the start of the season. They also lost against Chelsea both at home and at Stamford Bridge, which were considered to be important matches of the season. The most experienced manager of the Premier League, Sir Alex Ferguson as if letting the moment pass aware that he can own the next one, hinted at possibilities of buying new players to ensure they are in a better position next year. Manchester United desperately needs a striker like Ronaldo who can score goals and can win matches. They seemed a one man army this year as they looked hopeful of winning a successive fourth title only when Rooney was playing and scoring. His addition to the injury list was a signal of fluttering butterflies. The fans seek change this time around and to be honest change isn’t always bad.

Another team who should look at a complete revamp next year is Arsenal. They not only need a good player who can score goals but also need a better goal keeper. Both Lukasz Fabianski and Manuel Almunia looked out of sorts this year. Till last year, Premier League was only about 4 team’s viz., Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. The performances of Tottenham, Manchester City and Aston Villa this year have added a new dimension to the competition. These teams who used to languish at mid-table position or at the bottom of the table are going to only improve from here on and therefore the top teams like Arsenal cannot afford to rest.

It appeared Liverpool were under ominous astrological influence for the entire season and now have a mountain to climb as the club’s finances are in a mess. Injuries to the key players like Gerard and Torres made matters worse. Recent reports of Real Madrid trying to buy Steven Gerard and Rafael Benitez planning his career in Italy are a cause of concern for fans. The solution to Liverpool’s problems would once again depend upon how much money they would be spending buying players before the next season begins.