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.

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