The King returns. Will his young successors welcome him?
After a 36-month hiatus Michael Schumacher has decided to have another crack at winning in his sport.
"More of the same!" he seems to demand from the sport that defined him. The sport that crowned him. Made him a legend. And carved his initials onto gleaming trophies that he proudly brandished so often all over the world. All other competitors were mere actors. It was his stage. His sport.
His sport however, tore him and wore him out too. At the end of the 2006 season his followers began to believe his best days were behind him. Fernando Alonso had dethroned him twice in 2004-2005 and Ferrari, his team, were getting impatient.
Schumi's return - a gift for Formula One
They wanted a successor. One who would dominate all over again for them. Finnish ace Kimi Raikkonen brought the World Drivers Championship back to Ferrari in 2007, the season after Schumacher's retirement from the sport.
In the following season, Britain's Lewis Hamilton became the youngest ever World Drivers Champion aged 23, for McLaren. And Jenson Button wrapped up the title last season in the dominant BrawnGP car.
These young champions were imposters to his throne. The new rulers in a new era of Formula One. And now they all want to add to their booty.
Sebastian Vettel, touted by many as the next 'king', is in the hunt to claim his rightful throne too. His team Red Bull, had the fastest car last season and have promised him a winner in the New Year. Nico Hulkenburg, another German prodigy, is all set to make his mark as the challenging prince in Formula One.
Meanwhile, the Spaniard, Fernando Alonso is eager to clean up his image after Renault's Singapore 'crash-gate' scandal last year. He along with Felipe Massa, launch a fresh conquest with Ferrari's complete weaponry in 2010. Ferrari have unveiled an aggressive design approach for their new car after suffering a humiliating season.
Amongst all these fiery intentions and battle plans Schumacher has decided to return to what was once his.
Profile: Michael Schumacher
Will the announcement of Michael Schumacher's return worry the new protagonists? Surely any racing driver would want to dice with the legend, go wheel-to-wheel with him, post fastest-lap times and grab pole from him.
Hamilton, Vettel and Hulkenburg have never sat on the grid alongside him before. They have never had the legend as a direct competitor. Would they lift off at Turn 1? Would they brake later than him? To what extreme would they go to win. To beat the king.
One thing's for certain. Schumacher cannot hide his craving anymore. He's out in the open. The whole wide world of Formula One racing is staring into his visor anxiously. There are those who believe he would dominate in the new Ross Brawn penned Mercedes. There are others like ex-Grand Prix driver and former teammate Johnny Herbert who believe he will find it tough.
A three-year contract with the legendary German marque who themselves are returning to conquer the sport they once dominated, takes Schumacher's career full circle. Back to where it all began with Mercedes in Group C Sports cars way back in 1990.
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That's when Michael as a young charger learnt and mastered the art of conserving tyres and fuel. He learnt to endure a race distance. He developed superior race craft, which many years later brought him endless victories in Formula One.
Two decades on Mercedes call on his experience in a bid to maintain the advantage BrawnGP enjoyed in 2009. To rule once more.
But can the King no matter how dominant return to his sport and win all over again? Maybe. But with his return he runs the risk of being conquered. Being banished forever. By young successors, who more than ever, will relish that.
(The author, an avid motorsports fan works at Ogilvy & Mather Advertising, Bangalore. He can be reached at email@example.com)