Monday, August 3, 2009

Of Rumors And Comebacks

Fernando Alonso is rumored for Ferrari for the 2010 season. With Kimi Raikkonen driving the way he talks, an incoherent mumble, and with his new interest in Rallying, contracts may be broken. Ferrari has, of course, denied these “rumors”. Similar rumors were disregarded when Jordan denied Michael Schumacher would be going to Benetton, Ferrari denied Schumacher for 1996, Benetton denied Fisichella for 1998, so on and so forth.

There have been a lot of reports on Michael Schumacher’s comeback but there is an underlying reason. Formula 1 since 2007 has been dominated by news which has brought the game to some disrepute. 2007 saw the McLaren spy scandal, wherein they were penalized for the season from the Constructors standings, and in 2009 the FIA/FOTA dispute distracted spectators to a dirty line of politics.

Bernie Ecclestone was recently quoted in an interview with Brad Spurgeon of the New York Times, “…people say to me, “What do you do?” And I say, “I’m a firefighter.” All day long there’s fires and we put them out. So we have to try and put the fires out. Some often need a lot more water than others.” Bernie is trying to do just that with Schumacher’s return.

Schumacher’s comeback draws parallels to Nigel Mansell’s return in 1994. Mansell had bowed out in 1992 and Alain Prost followed suit in 1993. That left Ayrton Senna the only recognized face in the sport. Schumacher displayed that he was a contender but post Senna’s accident, there was no one in the sport with a face. Mansell was convinced to make a comeback to fill in that gap. After the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix there was no world champion left in the driver line up for that season. Schumacher won his first championship in the last race of the season, Damon Hill in two years from then and Mika Hakkinen in 1998 and 1999. We would have to go way back to find a season without a world champion in the line up. (I only checked back till 1990)

Schumacher won’t be just a face but may even be saving grace for the struggling Ferrari. If he starts where he left off, he may gift a handful of wins to the former Ross Brawn-Jean Todt alliance.

And speaking of the Brawn-Todt alliance, Shumacher’s success has always been with one of the two in the team, and now he is 40, and has had a motorcycle accident in February this year (image above), and will be driving without traction control after nine years and his first race of the season will be on a completely new track. Mansell faded a bit with his comeback, despite a win in Adelaide.

Schumacher, then?

TRPs and money then.

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