Sunday 22 April 2018

F1: Schumacher has view to a kill ahead of F1 season

Kevin Garside

THE main event is upon us, the moment for which Formula One has been drooling through the endless slog of winter. Yes, there is a race this weekend, but that is not the story overwhelming Bahrain. That would be the return of a 41-year-old veteran who imagines he can make younger men weep.

The Michael Schumacher carnival swept through Bahrain's intestinal hinterland ripping a featureless Mercedes Benz dealership from its foundations and placing it somewhere near the centre of the universe. It is a long time since a member of the Bahrain royal family has ventured this far from the red carpet. Yet there he was, the venerable Sheik waiting in line to be presented to Schumacher.

Tagging along at Schumacher's heel is a blond lad with a big future. Not that you would know it. Nico Rosberg is temporarily cast in the role of the other bloke. He doesn't require a name. No 2 is a dirty word in Formula One.

The Bahrain experience mirrored the first test of the winter in Valencia, when a hundred lenses sought the ultimate Schumacher shot and only one lingered on Rosberg. This part of the business has never been Schumacher's strength. One correspondent chanced his arm with a question about fictional heroes and whom Schumacher might like to play in a movie.

"I'm probably James Bond," he said. We wanted him to say; the name's Schumacher, Michael Schumacher. Instead he said: "I did my seventh title in my 700th grand prix. That makes 007."

Fernando Alonso led the eulogies: "Michael Schumacher is part of the history of our sport. Looking at the numbers, the wins, the poles, the championships, Michael is the best ever." On the first dais of the season Schumacher split Alonso and Felipe Massa. Massa's return to racing for Ferrari following his freak accident last year has been obliterated by the 'Schunami'.

Massa was always the most compliant of No 2s to Schumacher and his was the ear of choice sought by Schumacher during those awkward moments when champions are asked to sit in each others' company. In his proximity to Schumacher, Alonso, despite his fulsome address, displayed all the comfort of a haemorrhoids victim.

Schumacher reduced everything to a desire to race. It was not about individuals per se, not about subordinating Alonso, Lewis Hamilton or the most recent admission to the world champions' club, Jenson Button, for any reason other than the fact that they are there. Schumacher is answering a primal urge to compete.

The greater part of this Schumacher fairytale is the inversion that sees him no longer as the baddest man on the F1 planet but the returning hero.

Away from the PR filter Rosberg was having none of it. Out in the paddock he was stopped by a well-wisher. "Nico, I want you to put that old man in his place." "Don't worry," said Nico, "I will." That's more like it. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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