Michael Schumacher lives, eats and breathes Formula One. This unblinking focus is what allows his talent to flourish. He is the product of the specialisation era. Which is a shame in many ways because he is, without any doubt, a great all-round driver: fantastic in F3, a sensation in sportscars, and still a force in karts, as he proved with an incredible second place in the 2002 world championship round at his own Kerpen track.
Just imagine if he was willing to stick his reputation on the line on a more regular basis. Don't you just wish that he'd march into a Ford board meeting and do a Stirling Moss, i.e. demand a third Jaguar for a privateer team he is setting up with Ross Brawn, just for the hell of it, just to see how far he can drag it up the grid and results sheet
Taking a (small) step closer to reality, how about reviving Procar, the top 12 qualifiers for each GP taking on 12 regulars in a one-make supercar series?
I know, I know, that's not going to happen either: contacts, endorsements and specialisation...
Let's face it, we can't even make small alterations to Formula One's technical regulations. Whenever they are mooted, people like Adrian Newey or Rory Byrne, men whose opinion we naturally respect, come forward with lots of reasons why we can't But with all due respect, they have a vested interest. And why should their two voices (and, admittedly, the majority of the rest of the F1 paddock) drown out the millions of fans voting with their channel-hopping thumbs?
I don't personally subscribe to the view that F1 is doomed for all eternity unless all downforce is removed forthwith. What worries me more is that F1 doesn't want to change — at all. I understand the desire for stability in the regs, but you can take it too far: the 3-litre aspect of the formula, give or take 500cc, has been in force since before Bobby Moore wiped his hands on the bunting just prior to accepting the Jules Rimet from ER II.
What I would love to see is what Messrs Byrne, Newey, Head et al would come up with if they were forced into radical revisions of their designs and design outlook. Maybe then Gordon Murray would be tempted back. And maybe then Chapman-type Next Big Things would fill the pages, rather than endplate tweaks.
Of course, that's unlikely to happen, too. And if it does, it's more likely to come about via natural selection than innovative legislation. For teams today are way too big, way too expensive. Redundancies are increasing. Sponsors are dropping out. Soon to be followed, no doubt, by the least successful manufacturer. Followed by the next, etc. Fortunately for us, F1's bedrock is still hardcore: Rory and Adrian could live on their savings and, in the absence of outside high-financial forces, stick their petrolheads above the parapet once more.