BE QUIET & DRIVE


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By an eyebrow…

Is it just me, or is the thought of that finger, raised aloft in celebration of yet another championship  victory, a difficult image to swallow this season? Sebastian Vettel, all but written off at the beginning of the season, seems to have once again cemented the yellow nose of his Red Bull Renault to the front of the grid. The Formula One boomerang swooped back into contention, lodging itself right between the eyebrows of Championship leader Fernando Alonso.

Today’s Fernando Alonso is not the man he once was. Sure, he’s competitive and focussed, but gone are the hissy fits of the McLaren era, the accusations, the petulance.  Happy at a Ferrari team who finally seem to have finally got over the loss of Michael Schumacher (no offence Kimi), he sits at the head of a family, each member with the Spaniard’s happiness at the forefront of their minds. Within his cocoon he has flourished in a terrible car, the measure of the man is evident, Fernando continues to go from strength to strength. Even (at last) Felipe is benefiting from the atmosphere, his performances are improving, and so will his confidence. Obviously this isn’t a coincidence, a happy team-mate is a helpful team-mate I would imagine…

Sebastian is also likeable, he’s boyish, strolling round in his baggy shorts and backpack. I hope he takes his ID around with him, because I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to ask for it if he was buying a pint! The issue seems to be that Formula One needs that little hiccup in Seb’s blueprint plans for World Driver Championship domination, even Michael Schumacher took a four year sabbatical after his back-to-back wins. Fans of Formula One were bored by 2011, win after win, the finger waved from podium after podium. DRS and Kers helped the guys behind battle it out, but once the number one RBR had shot round the first corner, the only thing left to do was read the word ‘Infinity’ from the back of the rear wing!

Fernando would make a great World Champion, it would breath life into Ferrari. It would prove to an army of Formula One fans that a great driver does not need the best equipment to succeed, because a true racing legend could win in a shopping trolley! Sebastian has the best equipment, despite the updates only really shining in the second half of the season, and once again he’s trying to run off into the sunset.

May the best man win, but let him prove his worth, not coast in without breaking a sweat.

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Schumi the way to go home.

It’s been a difficult seventeen years onboard the Michael Schumacher rollercoaster. From deviously  evil genius, to laid back mellowed out grandfather of the grid, he’s been one of the constants in my Formula One lifetime and, in a turnabout to my previous opinions, I’m going to be sorry to see him go.

My formula one watching career is only surpassed by Michael’s driving, I joined the television circus in the summer of 1995, I was fourteen.

My first memories of Michael are of arrogance, aggressive self belief to the point of narcissism. He was hard faced, he didn’t care about anyone except himself, both on the track and off it. He strutted about the paddock, exuding importance (unsurprising given that this was his second Championship clinching year) and I hated him.

Michael Schumacher celebrating with team principle Flavio Briatore
– Daily Telegraph

He became as sinister to me as childhood baddies, the man who would crash into his competitors to end a race on his terms. That meant he didn’t know if he could win surely? Was he as self assured as his gait suggested? I watched Damon Hill’s title year from the relative safety of behind a pillow, but that year he was safe, the Ferrari F310 was abismol, and the only real challenge came from Indy Car transfer student Jacques Villeneuve, who’s hopes ended on three wheels in the Suzuka gravel. Schumacher finished a lowly, yet thoroughly respectable (given the equipment) third.

Just as you thought it was safe to head out onto the racetrack however, he was at it again! The 1997 season saw Michael get back to his old tricks once more; as he battled Jacques Villeneuve for the title. This year was a little different to 1994, it was not Adelaide and the points weren’t stacked in his favour. With the eyes of the world watching him, he took a swipe at the Williams of Villeneuve around Estoril’s ‘Dry Sack’ corner. From behind my cushion (for the second year running) I slammed my eyes shut and waited for Murray to confirm my fears; that Jacques was out of the race. The opposite occurred, and karma seemed to have finally come back to haunt Michael, his wheel’s spinning uselessly against the gravel. He was beached, and deservedly so.

Over the years, Michael has won and won, over and over again, I was sick of him. Of course I know that if I had been a logical fan without the furious passion that thought he was a cheating scumbag things would have been completely different. He is a great of the sport, the Championships speak for themselves, and what he did with the late nineties, early noughties Ferraris was a feat only a few men could have performed. Think about this season, everyone’s praising Alonso for the way he handles his car, the 1997 F310 was a pig on wheels!

Cue the U-turn.

The Michael Schumacher of 2012 is modest, chilled out and ready to apologise when he makes a mistake. Since his return there hasn’t been one sniff of a win on the horizon, eeking out one podium in Valencia – despite me wishing it in 2011 at Canada.

The last two Grands Prix I have been to have filled me with a weird sensation when he’s driven past. I found myself feeling particularly honoured to be sitting beside the track while he drove past. I suddenly seem to appreciate him more, because to me he’s proved that there was a human being underneath all the controversy.

A calmer, happier, mellow Michael these days

Thanks Michael, it’s been an experience.