Tuesday, January 5, 2010

2010 : The Year of Legends !

Lewis Hamilton welcomes back 'legend and really nice guy' Michael Schumacher to F1

Michael Schumacher versus Lewis Hamilton: the mere thought of such a rivalry has left the motor racing world feeling sorely deprived.

Its sudden realisation on Wednesday, after three years of being thwarted, fuelled a type of anticipation to which even the ice-cool Hamilton was not immune.
While Schumacher refused to name those whom he perceived as likely adversaries, Hamilton, whose precocity has recalled a certain German of mid-Nineties vintage, has become established as his heir apparent – the only man who could emulate or eclipse a target of seven world titles.

The only element missing is the spectacle of Schumacher reasserting his claims from the cockpit of a Ferrari, the 40 year-old being as indivisibly wedded to the prancing horse as Hamilton is to the McLaren technocracy.

But all that matters for now is the end of the hypotheticals. The cries that followed Schumacher's retirement were invariably along the lines of, "If only he had raced for one more year – then we would have seen him compete with Hamilton." Now we will, and the reaction from Woking was effusive.
"It's great to have Michael back in Formula One," Hamilton said. "He is a legend and a really nice guy, and I am happy that he has once again got an opportunity to do the best job in the world. I wish him my absolute best on his comeback with Mercedes-Benz."
Fair enough, the words from the 2008 world champion sounded about as machine-tooled as his car, but they were informed by a long-standing mutual appreciation.

There was a moment, all too fleeting, when these two totems of their sport faced off on the track, albeit on a karting track in Germany when Hamilton was just 16.
Who could forget, either, the time when Schumacher stopped Hamilton in the Monza pit lane in 2006 to congratulate him on his prowess? It seemed then like some generational shift; there was nothing to augur the seismic implication in Wednesday's announcement: that would, for not just one season but a potential three, be contemporaries.

"I used to watch Michael race when I was in the junior categories," Hamilton remembered. "I always hoped that I would be in F1 while he was still around."
Already there are expectations that the new-found parity of F1 competition automatically means wheel-to-wheel confrontation between Schumacher and Hamilton at every race. Their viscerally raw driving styles have often been compared, and while Schumacher was quick yesterday to stress his fitness, Eddie Irvine, his Ferrari team-mate at the height of his hegemony, sounded a cautionary note.

"The speed will be there, though he won't be as fast as he was seven years ago," the Irishman said. "He's not at the peak of his game, but he's still good enough to win races as he has such an immense talent. It's still four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine and there has never been anyone better than Michael."

For Mercedes, there was only gratification at their brilliantly-executed coup, bringing Schumacher back, in a move of neat circularity, to the company for whom he raced in sports cars before joining Jordan in 1991.
Norbert Haug, the vice-president of Mercedes-Benz motorsports, said: "Michael has more of everything than every other driver. Our sporting ambition has always been that Michael should drive again where his professional career had started, and he knew that.
"We often joked about it after the races and discussed the prospect seriously several times during the last 14 years in Formula 1. It didn't happen in 1995, it didn't happen in 1998 and it didn't happen in 2005.

"I am delighted that it will now happen in 2010. Everybody at Mercedes extends a very warm welcome to our 'apprentice' of 19 years ago. That apprentice is now the most successful racing driver of all time."
It is a billing to which, for the time being, even Hamilton has to bow.
By Oliver Brown

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