The Reuters global sports blog
When Germany’s best-selling tabloid Bild sends two reporters to an overseas Formula One test in the depths of February, you know something big is brewing.
The return of Michael Schumacher, and the seven times world champion’s first drive of the new Mercedes W01, in Valencia on Monday triggered scenes reminiscent of the glory days when the German was so dominant with Ferrari.
Reporters and television crews pushed, shoved and elbowed each other to get a Schumacher soundbite at the end of the session.
His first lap was echoing around the blogosphere before he had even crossed the finish line.
The late Peter Ustinov, a comic connoisseur of national stereotypes in his 1958 spoof commentary for an imaginary Grand Prix of Gibraltar, might have enjoyed Monday’s Mercedes team launch in Stuttgart.
As Michael Schumacher observed, referring to his new employers’ prospects for the season ahead, all the ingredients were there.
Cynics may observe that Michael Schumacher’s desire to be the odd man out in Formula One has the added bonus of always putting the German ahead of his team mate in the pecking order, even if only on paper.
What Schumacher wants, Schumacher generally gets and it comes as no shock that the new Mercedes (formerly Brawn GP) team run by his old Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn immediately granted the seven times world champion’s wish and give him the number three on his car, ahead of Nico Rosberg’s number four.
A lot of people are getting quite excited about the possibility of Michael Schumacher coming out of retirement to race for the new Mercedes F1 team (formerly known as champions Brawn) at the age of 41.
The German’s spokeswoman Sabine Kehm feels it is highly unlikely while Mercedes said at the weekend that “some speculations are nothing but dreams which will not come true” (although note the carmaker did not specifically say this particular piece of speculation was one of them).
While the Formula One world champion faces the difficult decision of whether to go to McLaren on six million pounds a year or stay with Brawn/Mercedes for what still amounts to a salary of lottery proportions, other drivers are not so fortunate.
With the departure of leading manufacturers and the effects of the global credit crunch, next year’s starting grid will see the return in numbers of a once familiar species that has been almost extinct in recent years — the paying driver.
The question is not merely rhetorical but one faced by anyone writing about the team formerly known as Honda (how about TFKAH?) who are expected to carry out a shakedown of their new Mercedes-powered car at Silverstone this week.
They could then go testing in Barcelona, with no news yet on when a long-awaited management buyout will be confirmed.