Sunday, March 4, 2007

Post-Schumacher Syndrome

Even before the lights go off, the 2007 season is set to be a cracker. This despite the absence of Michael Schumacher, the man whose performances made him the sport's global icon following the trail of perhaps a greater legend – the late Ayrton Senna.

Schumi may still be around at the paddocks, and it is certain that no camera is going to miss him. However, the question remains who will be the man to even come close to his record seven world titles. In a glittering career spanning 17 years, Michael broke nearly every record in sight.

The odds are in favour of Kimi Raikonnen ( click here to check odds on to win this year's championship, however one still cannot discount the current two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso, more so for seasons to come. The Spaniard has moved to Mclaren, a team that struggled last season. 'Iceman' Kimi would be hoping Ferrari can provide him what Mclaren could not – a reliable car – which many believe cost him the 2005 World Championship. However, that's the way sport is.

If given a choice, I still see Alonso coming closer to matching up to Schumacher than Kimi. For starters, Kimi seems the kind who will happily retire after two or three wins. Both Kimi and Alonso started their FI careers in 2001, though at 27 Kimi is the older of the two. The 25-year old Alonso is also two steps closer to Schumacher's record, in the process becoming the youngest-ever F1 World Champion.

Coming from a generation that has seen both Pete Sampras and Roger Federer, one cannot be blamed to believe that Alonso could blitz all the records set by Schumacher. For this, he first needs to change the fortunes of Team Mclaren. Fortunately, Alonso has a rookie as team-mate. Lewis Hamilton is by far a better foil for the world champion than a Juan Pablo Montoya. However, Hamilton is a Mclaren product, and he looks set for a long stint with the team.

One doubts if any driver can replicate the work ethic and professionalism shown by Michael Schumacher. The Ferrari team will surely miss him, and Kimi will have a daunting task ahead. Alonso can only benefit if he can work well and build a rapport with Ron Dennis's team.

Alonso needs six world titles to beat Schumi, a daunting task indeed. Even if he wins half that number, he will book his place in F1 history, and probably rightfully share the limelight with fellow greats such as Roger Federer and Tiger Woods.

PS: I am sure if Schumi and Kimi fans could change history, Alonso would still be looking for his first championship. Being a Schumi supporter, I ask all not to start on the tyres and engines that worked in Alonso's favour.

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