While watching the recent United States Grand Prix, I felt an overwhelming urge to write to your magazine in order to relate how much I had enjoyed the race.
I had fallen out of love with F1 a few years ago, possibly at the same time that Michael Schumacher and Ferrari got together and he/they began their autocratic, dictatorial assault on the championship. I would still sit down every other Sunday and watch the races, but not with any of the excitement or expectation of years gone by.
I had always suspected that the TV coverage could be better than it was, and boy, was that proven to be the case during ITV’s digitally enhanced output at Indianapolis. From the in-car mirror shot of Schumacher overshooting his place on the grid to the rear-facing camera shots throughout the race, my passion for the sport with which I was once obsessed was reignited.
The Ferrari drivers were, we were told, off the leash and (excuse me while I sit down) racing each other. Rubens Barrichello’s pursuit of his team-mate was enthralling, as was David Coulthard’s pursuit of Barrichello. This was what Formula One had been missing — the two fastest cars in the field having a race.
Going into the final lap it looked like another Schumacher victory, but an honest victory, at least, with tolerable team orders coming into play for just the final 10 laps or so.
Cue the money shot off the final corner, ready with your cameras, and what do we get? Farce. Once again Formula One has shot itself in the foot.
Who is to blame? Please step forward Michael Schumacher. A great driver he certainly is (I saw him make his grand prix debut at Spa back in 1991 aboard the Jordan and was blown away by his qualifying performance), but it is his insistence that he has passive team-mates that has led to the situation we are in today.
When a team dominates as Ferrari have over the last few seasons, they should, if they have an ounce of race fan left in them, feel obliged to put on a show. Think of the great battles we have had between team-mates in the recent past: Mansell and Nelson Piquet at Williams, Prost and Ayrton Senna at McLaren, etc.
Wouldn’t it be great if Michael came out at the beginning of the 2003 season saying that he understood the frustration of the fans? That he was still, at heart, one of them, and that henceforth he and Rubens would racing each other all the way?
Wouldn’t he rather be remembered as great world champion who had taken on all his rivals on the circuit, and not as someone who had eliminated his main challenge before a wheel had ever turned in anger?
I am, Yours etc,
Mark Pearson, Cambridge