Schumacher returns for a legacy or misery

Adrian Musolino Columnist

By Adrian Musolino, Adrian Musolino is a Roar Expert

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    Michael Schumacher, from Germany celebrating at the end of the karting event charity race International Challenge of the Stars. AP Photo/ Nabor Goulart

    Michael Schumacher, from Germany celebrating at the end of the karting event charity race International Challenge of the Stars. AP Photo/ Nabor Goulart

    He’s back! Seven-time Formula 1 world champion Michael Schumacher will return to the sport in 2010 with Mercedes, the team that, as Brawn GP, won both world titles in 2009.

    Remarkably, the German will be 41 years-old when he lines up in Bahrain for the season opener in March, and he’s eying an eighth world title to confirm his greatness.

    “Our aim can only be to fight for the championship,” he said, bluntly, in the press release.

    Speculation has been growing for months of an imminent return to the sport he left as a driver in 2006, after his planned comeback to replace the injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari this season fell through due to a neck injury.

    Now, with Mercedes returning to the sport as a full manufacturer having taken over the Brawn GP outfit, Schumacher will be reunited with the German manufacturer and Ross Brawn, the mastermind behind each one of his seven world titles, at Benetton and Ferrari.

    Returning with Mercedes and not Ferrari may surprise many, but there is unfinished business for both parties.

    As a Mercedes development driver in his formative years, he was snapped from Mercedes’ grasp when they stagnated on their Formula 1 commitment and he shone with Benetton.

    Schumacher was a bane for Mercedes as he conquered the 2000s with Ferrari, overcoming the challenge of Mika Hakkinen and McLaren Mercedes, beginning his five-year reign in 2000 against the Finn, who was his greatest rival.

    The irony of a German driver battling against Germany’s premier manufacturer was not lost in the mother country, and there will be great pleasure in the Stuttgart headquarters of Mercedes at having finally secured the greatest German sportsman, separating him from Ferrari.

    Can they win the world title together?

    He will be racing for the team that guided Jenson Button to the title, and while many question his age, let’s not forget how comprehensively he ruled F1, with Ross Brawn, and how he set the bar so high for fitness and commitment.

    Much will depend on the competitiveness of the Mercedes-Brawn package: whether their 2009 championship fight impeded their development of this year’s car and how quickly Brawn can be assimilated with Mercedes as an owner.

    With F1 having been robbed of depth in the midpack with the withdrawal of BMW and Toyota, Schumacher and Mercedes should be in the leading pack with Ferrari, McLaren and Mark Webber’s Red Bull team.

    The prospects of an eight-world title for the Schu remain to be seen.

    But the question fans worldwide will be asking at present is why he is returning to a sport with an inherent danger at his age; racing against competitors he is old enough to father.

    He is astronomically wealthy, and it’s unlikely the family man would’ve lost that fortune through excess. He owns the most important records in the sport already: most championships, wins, pole positions, points, podiums, fastest laps, and on it goes.

    Legends often worry about legacies, but Schumacher’s, in the cold hard light of retrospection remains tarnished by his on track misdemeanours, of which there are too many to list here, that spilt over from his incessant quest to dominate.

    Perhaps he knows that, and he is seeking the eight-world title to try and correct that legacy.

    If he does win the world title, defeating the new guard of Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button, there will be no denying his greatness.

    On the flipside, if Mercedes isn’t competitive, how will he cope with being at the tail-end of the midpack? Remember this is a driver who was never far from the podium, even when Ferrari stumbled in his final two seasons. How will he rationalise his comeback if he cannot compete for wins?

    Perhaps, some say, he will be content in just racing.

    Schumacher was often seen mingling on the Ferrari pit wall at the races he attended in his retirement, and he attempted to quench his thirst for speed by racing Superbikes, principally in the German championship.

    The reality is, for a man with two children, the cocoon of a Formula 1 cockpit is a safer place than on top of Honda Fireblade, as his neck injury suffered in the fall that deprived him of his Ferrari comeback shows.

    He may just feel the need for speed, but for a driver with such a hunger and drive, you sense that he is eyeing that eighth world title, and a chance to redeem his legacy against the generation that replaced him.

    Whatever the result, Formula 1 will be so much richer for his return – a tantalising prospect that adds so much intrigue to the 2010 season.

    Adrian Musolino
    Adrian Musolino

    Adrian Musolino is editor of V8X Magazine, and has written as an expert on The Roar since 2008, cementing himself as a key writer who can see the big picture in sport. He freelances on other forms of motorsport, football, cycling and more.

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    The Crowd Says (11)

    • Roar Guru

      December 24th 2009 @ 5:26am
      LeftArmSpinner said | December 24th 2009 @ 5:26am | ! Report

      I dont understand why he is coming back. He has nothing left to prove. But, his return will add interest to the 2010 season as will his relationship with Button.

      Will it be a case of “button on a string?”

      • December 24th 2009 @ 6:38am
        Marshall said | December 24th 2009 @ 6:38am | ! Report

        Button has gone to McLaren where he’ll be tested even more byLewis. Poor Nico Rosberg is facing Schumacher as teammate

    • December 24th 2009 @ 6:32am
      Marshall said | December 24th 2009 @ 6:32am | ! Report

      Can’t believe he’s back. 41!

    • December 24th 2009 @ 10:08am
      James said | December 24th 2009 @ 10:08am | ! Report

      Incredible that he’s back but at 41 I can’t see him having that edge on Hamilton, Button and co in their twenties, surely!

    • December 24th 2009 @ 8:18pm
      Jason Cave said | December 24th 2009 @ 8:18pm | ! Report

      I very much doubt that Michael Schumacher will be the F1 world champion. The rules have changed dramatically since he handled an F1 car. Surely there must be younger drivers who have been longing to be involved in F1 who are racing in the lower levels and are desperate for an F1 contract rather than go for a guy who last drove a F1 car for Ferrari 3 years before.

      • December 24th 2009 @ 9:39pm
        James said | December 24th 2009 @ 9:39pm | ! Report

        Fair call but his experience will be invaluable, especially for a new team in the sense that Mercedes and Brawn are merging together. I can’t see him winning the title either, we don’t know how competitive they’ll be and McLaren and Ferrrari should be stronger than 2009. Will be fascinating to see how he does.

    • December 24th 2009 @ 10:56pm
      Rich_daddy said | December 24th 2009 @ 10:56pm | ! Report

      One must wonder why Schumacher has decided to make a comeback. He is in his forties, worth millions of dollars and holds the driving title record which may never be broken. So why risk life and limb again? What does he have to prove?

      A few people I have spoken to about this reckon it is because of his competitive streak. He’s been watching the racing and t.v and Iasked himself “Could I beat these guys?”

      That’s possible, but I’m not a fan of former champions returning to their sport they dominated. It often proves to be a let down (Tony Lockett in AFL comes to mind) and it shows that these guys are not sure what to do themselves post retirement.

      All the best to him, but I don’t expect much.

    • December 24th 2009 @ 11:04pm
      Marshall said | December 24th 2009 @ 11:04pm | ! Report

      Think he missed the speed and I’d imagine he feels he can beat the new boys considering how he dominated during his reign

      • December 27th 2009 @ 4:27pm
        James said | December 27th 2009 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

        No doubt. He knows he had a huge edge during his time and is probably intrigued to see how he matches up against the new boys. Wonder if Lance coming back inspired him, too.

        • December 28th 2009 @ 1:31am
          Marshall said | December 28th 2009 @ 1:31am | ! Report

          Maybe. Missing out last year in replacing Massa would only have made him keen to make a proper comeback.

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