I’ve been blogging on Formula One throughout the season this year. Having come back to F1 after an absence of ten or fifteen years, I’ve enjoyed the racing a great deal. Although it’s fair to say I’ve probably enjoyed the BBC’s coverage just as much. I mock Jake, DC and Eddie, and I ridicule Brundle because I think it’s pretty funny. But secretly, I like what they do.
Mostly though, this year has been a voyage of discovery into the labyrinthine politics and behind-the-scenes shenanigans. It’s this that has kept me fascinated me throughout the last few months.
I had made a formatting decision early on that I would only blog on the subject during Grand Prix weekends, folding in any appropriate fun and games that had happened since the last race, and summarising them neatly before moving on to the day’s events. Unfortunately, it was getting to the point that I would take up my laptop to describe a qualifying session, and knock out a thousand words on Max Mosley and KERS before they’d even started their engines.
So this week I am faced with the problem that there is just so much going on in the world of Formula One, and there are three and a half weeks till the next race. With poor old Felipe Massa still in intensive care, and BMW on their bike, I was already making notes for the next race weekend.
This week though, I simply have to break with my self-imposed tradition and write about the news early. This week, Michael Schumacher came out of retirement.
Firstly, let’s talk about Felipe Massa. After his brush with Rubens Barrichello’s rear suspension last week, he is now out of intensive care and, in the long tradition of medical bulletins, he is reported to be “cracking jokes.” Despite his improving condition, he is to remain in Budapest for the time being. His Brazilian doctor Dino Altmann said that Massa “looks like a boxer,” but the fact the doctor is flying out of Hungary today indicates that Massa is out of danger.
So, with Massa in one piece but unlikely to make the grid for Valencia in three weeks’ time, Ferrari needed a short term replacement to drive their car. I imagine the board meeting where they discussed this was very interesting. Chief engineers and team managers all scratching their heads and tossing around the names of test drivers. In the corner is the glowering “technical adviser,” still very much on the payroll. He coughs gently and silence falls. All heads turn to him.
“Gentlemen. If I might make a suggestion…”
So Schumi is back behind the wheel. The world is sitting up and taking notice. Will he still have it? Will he be struggle with the technology which has advanced so much while he has been away? He probably doesn’t even know what KERS stands for. Actually, nobody else does either.
Is this a step too far for an old champion? He is almost universally acknowledged as the best driver to ever sit in a Formula One car, but I suppose four years in the paddock has to make even the best rusty.
It’s not as dangerous as in boxing – seeing Evander Holyfield coming out of retirement again to take on the enormous Nikolay Valuev was not just sad, but also dangerous. Fortunately, the seven foot monster is a hapless gorilla rather than a boxer, so Holyfield survived to start his latest retirement.
Although F1 is a lot safer these days, Massa’s accident, and Alonso’s flying tyre in Budapest have proved that it is still a contact sport. You have to feel that Schumacher will be okay though – he is so icy cool that he’ll probably end up winning the bloody race.
In the back of my mind, there is the concern that he is pretty much the reason I stopped watching F1 all those years ago. However, it was not him so much as his uncompromising domination of the sport. Even if he were to return to that metronomic form for the next couple of races, it can only ever be a temporary aberration to the status quo, and so I’ve got to appreciate the drama.
Whilst on the subject of Fernando Alonso’s missing wheel, the Renault team have been suspended from the European Grand Prix as a punishment for allowing him out of the pits without securing his the wheel-nut. They are appealing, and the likelihood is they’ll end up with a fine or a points deduction.
Still, a hefty Bridgestone bouncing down the track at 100mph is no laughing matter and there ought to be a significant punishment, although in my heart of hearts, I feel sorry for the poor mechanic who missed his mark and didn’t quite get his spanner in place.
Felipe Massa’s Accident – The Hungarian Grand Prix, 26th July 2009