The Schumacher effect…in numbers

There is no doubt that the return of the 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher was a big talking point heading into the 2010 season. His return to Mercedes GP Petronas was big news and the expectations were on the high side but within reason for most who knew what task he was facing.

Nothing encapsulates the draw, star power and fanaticism of the enigmatic Schumacher than TV ratings. His penchant for placing backsides in seats is well known and there is little doubt that F1 commercial rights boss Bernie Ecclestone was salivating at the news of the German’s return.

So how well was the return recieved? The Times shares the numbers:

The seven-times world champion’s comeback race was watched by an average audience of 10.5 million Germans on Sunday, compared to the 5.3 million viewers the season-opening event attracted last season.

“We did expect higher figures but we never dared think they would be that much higher,” RTL sports chief Manfred Loppe told reporters.

The race had a market share of just under 50 percent and a peak audience of 11.6 million as German Schumacher, 41, finished sixth in a Mercedes on his comeback after three seasons in retirement.

Like him or dislike him, the man can draw a crowd, turn TV’s on and polarize the entire series. His return to F1 was perhaps not successful as many had hoped. The former Ferrari driver was such a dominant force in F1 for so long that the prospects of him losing were low. That is until a certain Spaniard named Fernando Alonso, who now drives for Ferrari, came to challenge the German legend in 2006.

Entering F1 at 41 years old is perhaps something many former drivers would not venture to do but Schumacher has always been at the top of his fitness game and looked competitive and on pace with teammate Nico Rosberg. The two German drivers were outpaced by Alonso and Ferrari for the win in Bahrain but the bigger story was Rosberg’s performance over Schumacher. How did he feel about the race? He told ITV:

“With regards to the fitness, this race was not at all difficult for me and I was not exhausted at all,“ he told his official website.

“This is partly due to the fact that those tyres, in that heat, do not allow for more speed.

“But all in all I have to say: I am very, very happy and proud about how it went, considering I was completely out for three years and did not have a lot of driving for preparation.

“It would be strange to assume that I would come in, sit in the car and drive circles around the others – I, for my part, did not assume that in any case.”

Failing to win the first race upon his return is something I doubt Schumacher is upset with but falling short of his teammates pace is most likely an issue he will be very keen to remedy. Whether he can best the performance of Nico Rosberg remains to be seen and for Rosberg’s part, he did exactly what he had to do…beat Schumacher. The next race may just be Germans tuning in to see if Rosberg can beat the veteran again.

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