Shows how much I know, doesn’t it? All week I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen, including the millions of viewers who watch Formula 1 on ESPN Star Sports in Asia, that it was ‘fanciful’ that Michael Schumacher would be tempted to come back in place of the injured Felipe Massa. Oops.
But forget the egg dripping slowly down my face. This is sensational news! Suddenly, the European Grand Prix on the less than interesting Valencia harbour-side street track can’t come soon enough.
I thought it would be too much for Schumacher to contemplate a return nearly three years since he retired. He hasn’t even driven a Formula 1 car since April 2008, and obviously has no experience of the latest spec Ferrari. He hasn’t raced on slick tyres since 1997, he doesn’t know Valencia, he’s 40 years old, he’s nursing back and neck injuries from a bike racing tumble – and apparently he’s started drinking whiskey. Too much risk that he could just do without – or so I thought.
What I hadn’t accounted for is that Michael Schumacher just loves racing. Love him or loathe him – and I know which one many of you would select from that choice – his place as the greatest racing driver of his generation was earned because of a burning competitive instinct and an addiction to motor sport. That’s why he’s been dabbling with the bikes.
I’ve always admired Schumacher despite his faults, and I felt privileged to watch him in his pomp. Now my respect for him, which was always overshadowed by his dubious sporting ethics, is renewed. You’ve got to admire him for having a go.
How will Kimi Räikkönen be feeling this morning? Knowing Kimi, he won’t give a wotsit. But I bet it’ll fire him up if Schuey is anywhere near his pace come Friday morning in Valencia. And Lewis Hamilton, who has never raced against Michael, will be delighted at the news.
So how will he get on? Well, as long as his fitness is up to it (which it will be even if it takes him some time to get his neck back into F1 shape), Schuey could race through to the end of the year. William Hill is offering odds of 5/4 for him to take a pole position this year – and 12/1 to win the Italian GP. That’s got to be worth a punt!
In the same week that BMW lamely pulled the plug on its F1 programme, Schumacher’s return has put Grand Prix racing back in the spotlight for all the right reasons. As you can tell, I’m excited – but what do you think?