F1 2007 Preview: Will you miss Michael?

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Sepang, 3Thirteen years after he won his first world championship, the Michael Schumacher Show has been cancelled.

Many had grown bored of the ceaseless dominance of Schumacher and the Ferrari victory machine.

But not his legion of fans, who may struggle to transfer their affections onto another driver.

Will you miss Michael Schumacher in 2007? Or will he be forgotten after the first race? Here are a few of my thoughts.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Indianapolis, 2006 (3)Before it has even begun, the 2007 season is all about change. Enormous change on the driver market, splashes of new colour on the grid (Spyker, Renault) and a new track (Fuji).

But the biggest change of all is an absence rather than an addition – the departure of Michael Schumacher.

Since the death of Ayrton Senna on May 1st, 1994, Schumacher has been the number one in Formula One – whether or not it said so on the front of his car.

Michael Schumacher, Benetton-Ford, TI Aida, 1994So great was Schumacher’s talent, and so total was his domination of Benetton and Ferrari, that there were only rare occasions when you could discount him from victory.

Even when misfortune put him ‘out of position’ – as at Spa-Francorchamps in 1995 – he could still romp through the pack and win. He very nearly capped his final race at Interlagos last year with a similar feat.

Michael Schumacher, Ralf Schumacher, Melbourne, 1999From 1994 to 2006 there was only one season where a Schumacher victory might have been unexpected – in 2005, when Ferrari and Bridgestone failed to adapt to the one-off regulations barring tyre changes.

Many fans and commentators were in Schumacher’s thrall, witnessing, so they said, pure driving genius at work. And, to a point, it was. Some of Schumacher’s victories rank among the greatest ever witnessed: Spa ’95, Nurburgring ’95, Barcelona ’96, etc…

But, at the height of Ferrari domination, when they won every championship from 2000-2004, fans were turning away from Formula One in increasing numbers.

Crowd figures fell even at Ferrari’s traditional strongholds in Italy. Television viewing figures in Britain fell by almost a third from 2002-2006.

Was this Schumacher’s fault? Was it more to do with the fact that casual television viewers find it difficult to appreciate the efforts of sportsmen racing in machines that appear easy to drive?

Michael Schumacher, Rubens Barrichello, A1 Ring, 2001Whether he deserved it or not, Schumacher also became the focus of accusations that the sports’ governing body favoured him and his team.

A late rules change handed him the 2003 title on a plate. Rivals such as Juan Pablo Montoya seemed to get a rougher ride from the stewards than Schumacher.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Monte-Carlo, 2006, 5His punishment in the 2006 Monaco Grand Prix, for a startling indiscretion when he appeared to try to deliberately spoil his rivals lap times, did little to dissuade claims that the FIA were soft on Ferrari.

This is all gone now. Whether you were dazzled by his freakish speed, or turned off by the unseemly controversies, Formula 1 will be a very different proposition from the Australian Grand Prix this year.

So, will you miss Michael Schumacher?

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3 comments on F1 2007 Preview: Will you miss Michael?

  1. No. Won’t miss der keiser.

  2. No – in the end, the fanatical pro and anti-Schumacher stuff just got in the way of my enjoyment of the sport. A good long innings, but it was time for him to go.

  3. Miss him? Heck, I feel like we got our sport back. This season is the most interesting for years and it hasn’t even started yet…

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