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A Face Like Thunder

28th March 2010

Jaime Alguersuari; now there’s a driver I didn’t think would suddenly be the toast of the Formula 1 paddock.

The 2010 Australian Grand Prix will rightly go down as a classic for so many reasons: fantastic racing; spectacular shunts; daring overtaking moves; and a glorious maiden McLaren win for the current world champion.

All top-drawer stuff, of course, but for many within (and without) the tight-knit world of the F1 paddock, the Melbourne event was significant for illustrating perfectly the folly of so many a sporting comeback.

Here he comes now, gangsta rapper–style crucifix knocking against his body–hugging lycra top, cap pulled down hard above the now signature black wrap–around shades, high fiving as he goes.

To witness Michael Schumacher strut his stuff in F1 again is to be transported – in a wholly uncomfortable way – back to a time in the not-too-distant past when F1 was really not that much fun at all.

Just ask some of the guys down at Brawn – sorry, Mercedes. Last year a happier bunch of blokes you couldn’t hope to meet, revelling in the team’s well-earned success after years of disappointment. It’s a whole new world now. Spiky, aggressive and looking over it by race two, the occupants of the first two garages seem to be perpetually enveloped in a dark cloud.

Word has it that in a recent vote, when volunteers were sought to transfer from the race team to a back–at–base brief, it was so over-subscribed that the management are still sorting the applications.

On-track things aren’t going to plan, either. Sure, Nico is doing a good job, but that’s really not the point, is it? Michael is the red-camera-carrying number one, and what Michael wants he expects to get.

The trouble for the glabrously chinned seven-times champion is that the other drivers aren’t inclined to acquiesce to his demands – and he patently doesn’t like it.

Sneaking in to Ferrari for lunch so as to wind up Fernando ain’t gonna work when on Sunday you struggle hopelessly to pass Jaime!

Up in the press room, the schadenfreude is palpable: there is real anticipation of an imminent failure to progress to Q3, and predictions of a second retirement are getting ever bolder.

It’s a fact that in life your past has a lot to do with your future, and I’m afraid that for many in the sport Schumacher is reaping the rewards of what went before.

Always last to events so as to make a point, short with the press and dismissive of the snappers – and yet he missed F1 enough to want to come back? It all seems bizarre.

As the old man of the grid continues to struggle with his limitations, that three-year contract will soon start to feel like a life sentence.

Sore neck, Michael?

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