Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fate's answer to undermotivation

The biggest news in Formula One over the past few days isn't the exit of BMW from the sport beginning 2010... it is that (drumroll) Michael Schumacher is making a comeback! I must say that the timing of both announcements were very strategic. Bad news first which was overshadowed by an even bigger positive news after.

The Schumacher comeback is a plus on many fronts. First, it kind of subdued the negative BMW news, second, it breathed life to a dwindling Valencia race after country hero Fernando Alonso and Renault incurred a one-race ban for a mistake they made in Hungary. That initially meant that Spanish fans had nothing to look forward to, obviously affecting ticket sales... but not anymore.

Now, like I said before, Schumi, like Alonso, is a man who likes being in control in a team who clearly distinguishes its #1 and #2 drivers. All his previous teammates knew their place in the garage - they were not allowed to race Michael and they were instructed not to finish ahead of him. That was possible before, with Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa, who obliged the team in this set-up. But can you imagine asking a world champion to back-off and be a 'teammate' to the 7-time world champion? Of course, not. Most especially, if that's the Iceman you're talking about. As always, he wouldn't give a damn.

Should Kimi be afraid? No. Over the past couple of years, a lot of people have criticized Raikkonen for his lack of interest and motivation towards the sport. The things that they liked about him when he was starting out - that he's cool, calm and reserved - are the very things they are now using against him many years after, saying that he's bored, sleepy, undermotivated, and disinterested. I kind of relate to him, though. I think we all have our 'downtimes' when we lack motivation and all the shiz... the pressure is just greater if you're driving for a topnotch team who pays you millions of pounds enough to merit a number two spot in the Highest Paid Celebrities Under 30 list or a similar position in the Highest Paid Athletes List. But when you're down, there's no way to go but up... oh well, you can also go out but I doubt any of us would want to use the door from down there if there's a way out from the top.

Ferrari hasn't been performing well this season but in Hungary, after Felipe Massa was taken to the hospital due to a freak accident on Saturday, a very motivated Kimi Raikkonen showed up in the paddock on Sunday and drove a fierce race to finish second - Ferrari's best result this year. BBC Commentators were quick to note that he's a guy who likes to rise up to the challenge and they had no doubt he came in very determined to win the race after a difficult weekend for Ferrari. In the face of the somber paddock atmosphere that was a reflection of uncertainty of whether or not Felipe Massa would recover from the accident, Kimi and the team remained focused on the job at hand, and under the difficult circumstances, delivered their best race of the year yet.

And now with all the detractors and criticism, his foray to the WRC aside, I strongly believe that Schumacher's comeback will motivate Kimi more than ever. Many would say that he would be nervous and uncomfortable when Michael Schumacher is around but I believe otherwise. He is arguably one of the best drivers out there when he's motivated, and driving against someone considered to be the best driver of this generation should be the perfect motivation for him. Note that Kimi was in his element in ALL the years before Michael Schumacher retired, and now they are about to race as teammates for the first time.

Considering that Ferrari now has the best driver line up ever with two world champions, they will make the most of it to maintain 3rd place in the constructor's championship. I use the word 'best' a lot, don't I? best best best. If this were Twitter, it would be trending.

For sure, this will bring back memories of the Schumacher - Alonso - Raikkonen battles of the early to mid 2000s, side by side with the Button - Webber - Vettel of today.

It's ironic how this is all playing out - how one thing leads to another. For Kimi, Felipe's accident = return of motivation. Racing alonside Michael Schumacher under equal circumstances, similar cars = super motivation. I'm not saying Kimi will do better than Schumi. I'm just saying that perhaps, with Schumi as teammate, we would see less of the 'lackluster, bored, disinterested' driver in favor of a more determined and motivated frontrunner. I would also say that I anticipate Michael Schumacher to outperform Kimi in some races -- he ain't a 7-time world champion for nothing!

Let us not also discount the fact that Schumi's return will also motivate other drivers on the grid:
1. Alonso - the revival of their former rivalry
2. Hamilton - the chance to race and prove his mettle against a legend (and his hero)
3. Button - to show even more that he's not a fluke after winning the first few races and losing the last three
4. Barrichello - to bask in the thought that he's no longer Schumi's #2
5. Vettel - touted as the future Schumacher -- to show that he can beat THE Schumacher

We've all been waiting for this. Many have pledged their vote for best driver on the grid in recent years between world champions Alonso, Hamilton and Raikkonen but I guess the only way to really tell is if they're able to race in the same car, the same set-up, the same strategy, then it all boils down to skill. I never thought we'd see the day when any of them will be paired with Michael Schumacher.

I cannot wait for Valencia. Love it! Kimi, don't choke! You must not. :-)