He was the driver everyone loved to hate, he was the favorite villain of F1. In
his defense he is also the most notable and most popular F1 driver in recent
times. He is Michael Schumacher.
What was he guilty of? Of becoming the most successful driver in F1 history, and
the most dominant driver of his era. He holds the record for most victories, most
pole positions, most championship points and most “Driver’s Championships” (1994,
1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004).
Sport fans usually don’t like it when a team or athlete dominates a sport
completely - the most notable exceptions being golf’s Tiger Woods and basketball’s
Michael Jordan of the Chicago Bulls. Schumacher has been accused of making F1
rather dull from 2000 till 2004, such has been his domination. The most common
sight of F1 in those years was a race led by Schumacher from start to finish, which
made the races rather boring, thereby increasing the number of his detractors year
But if fans dislike dominating teams and athletes, they love to cheer underdogs
and newcomers. Fans enjoy it every time David defeats Goliath, and in 2005 they
got a David to cheer for, when Fernando Alonso ended the five year reign of
Schumacher by winning the Driver’s Championship. Schumacher finished the 2005
season in an uncharacteristic 3rd place in the final standings.
The problem with underdogs is that if they start winning consistently they lose
their underdog status and run the risk of becoming villains themselves. After the
first 3 races of the 2006 season that saw Alonso score two victories and a second
place and a lead of 14 points over his closest competitor, fans feared that Alonso
would become the new Schumacher, making F1 dull again. Fans prayed for a driver to
stand up and challenge Alonso for the 2006 Championship, any driver.
It seems that their prayers are being answered; the irony is that the answer has
come in the form of their old villain, Michael Schumacher. After the domination of
Alonso in the first 3 races (Bahrain, Malaysia and Australia), Schumacher has
emerged as the only driver capable of challenging Alonso by winning the San Marino
Grand Prix and the European Grand Prix, and although Alonso still enjoys a lead of
13 points thanks to his strong finishes in those two races (Alonso ended up in
second place in both races) this battle is far from over with 13 more races yet to
run, but Schumacher, Ferrari and Bridgestone have now proven that Alonso, Renault
and Michelin can be beaten.
Can Schumacher keep his performance up throughout the rest of the season to become
a real challenger for the title, and turn himself in the process from F1´s
favorite villain to its savior? Only time will tell, but it appears we are in for
a two horse race right down to the finale in Brazil.
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