Marbles ~ Laura Marieee: 12-16-09

My mum asked me on Tuesday morning: “Have you heard about Michael Schumacher? He could be driving for Mercedes!” (As if I didn’t already know of that possibility…!) Then she says, “That’ll be good, seeing him racing against Lewis!” (Like me, she supports Lewis…) Having never been much of a Schumacher fan, it’s amazing that I am excited about the possible return of Schumi to F1. And it seems that I’m probably not the only one who’s getting excited about the current rumours… Already the media have gone crazy on a possible return, and at the moment it is a hot topic on Twitter among fans and bloggers. OK, so I was never a fan of his, but a return could be a good thing. As three seasons have been and gone since he last raced in F1, things have changed, new drivers have entered the sport who are just like Schumi, and to see one of the all-time greats up against some of these newbies, would be exciting and add a new dimension to racing, with him showing the rest of the grid how it’s done!! Not to mention the added publicity it would bring to the sport and the potential money that could be made. So this week I thought I would talk about the sport’s current hot rumour, and despite having not been a Schumi fan throughout his career, I’ll put a positive spin on his potential return – forget the ‘it’ll never happen’ take on the story – as if it happens, this is what it could mean…

Marbles Laura Marieee

Whether you were a Schumacher fan throughout his string of championships, or always a supporter of the opposition, the mere possibility of a return to the world of F1 is enough to excite any fan of the sport, and send the media world into a frenzy. Ever since this story first broke it has been a hot topic, and there are many reasons why. For the fans it is about seeing their man back where he belongs, and in general, it is an exciting prospect – seeing one of the sport’s greats up against the newer drivers, who since his retirement from the sport, have taken over – not so much as replacing the ‘great’ as it were, but as becoming the new ‘one to beat’.

Two drivers who have taken on this role since Schumacher left at the end of 2007 are Hamilton and Vettel, the latter being referred to as the ‘next Schumacher’ during the 2009 season. Both came in as he left the sport and both have demonstrated a driving style similar to his: with the conviction to win. Hamilton enjoyed two successful seasons at the start of his F1 career, and over the last year has fought back from practically nowhere at the start of the season to finish as high up as possible. Vettel scored his first ever win, and set his first record in 2008, becoming the youngest driver to win a race, at Monza, and in 2009 went on to finish the championship in second, despite a fair few engine ‘issues’.

Schumacher, the most successful F1 driver of the last decade, up against those two in 2010 would certainly pull in some viewers. Whether they are all equally as good as each other, or he is better than them, would remain to be seen if indeed he is signed to the new Mercedes team in the coming days or weeks. But certainly some wheel-to-wheel action would be a reason to watch and it would almost certainly bring back old viewers who stopped watching when he retired.

Todd, Grace and Victoria all pointed out in this week’s podcast how a return could be a bad thing for other drivers, such as Nico Rosberg, who is already set to drive for Mercedes in 2010. But that aside, Schumacher against some of F1’s current top drivers, including Button in the new-and-improved McLaren, and Alonso and Massa at Ferrari, would certainly prove interesting to watch. Who would be better? Schumacher with his skill and expertise, albeit in a new Mercedes? Or all of the above, who have had the last three years of track experience to prove that they are just as good?

If he is announced, there is also the fact that the media world and the marketing channels will go nuts. Schumacher is a big name, and Schumacher back in F1 would make an even bigger story, and one that could potentially earn a fair wad of cash. First of all you have the Mercedes team who will be set to make a small fortune in merchandise sales alone. Then there are the potential sponsors to both the team and the sport as a whole – as far as the sport is concerned, if Schumacher returns, it stands to make a fair bit of money.

From a marketing point of view, and from the point of view of new fans of the sport, a Schumacher signing at Mercedes would mean many exciting things for the sport. And for an expanding 2010 grid, an old hand like Schumacher will bring even more variety to the racing. His return would be a positive in many ways, and hopefully it won’t be long before we know for sure whether this time it is really going to happen.

I for one am excited about a possible return – and I was never much of a fan. Let’s just hope there aren’t to be any setbacks like the last time he was set to make a comeback.

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