Will this be the year Michael Schumacher is finally knocked off his pedestal? Can he really win an eighth world championship? With his place in history assured as the world’s best driver ever, you wonder why he’s still risking life and limb every other week, clearly it’s not for the money, must be for the sheer love of racing.
The flip side of Schumacher’s and Ferrari domination over the past six years however is boredom. All too often a season fades into a Ferrari shade of red, every race just another trial run for the unstoppable Ferrari freight train, each post-race interview a well rehearsed script that even the casual fan can recite as we hum along to the inevitable drone of the German national anthem.
But as each year starts we look for hope and this year there are genuine reasons to believe Schumacher may not have things his own way. The primary reason is McLarens new pairing for 2005, Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikonen aka ‘Fire & Ice’. Not since Prost and Senna has there been such an anticipated line up, if McLaren got their sums right and the car is as fast as it looks then the prospects are mouth watering – two of Formula Ones biggest talents, two future world champions and two of the best racers in the business going head to head.
Reason number two through four, Renault, Giancarlo Fisichella and Fernando Alonso. Since Renault re-entered F1 as a constructor they have been making steady progress season after season culminating in a fine third place last year. This year they have Fisichella, the pundits choice as the best driver on the grid bar Schumacher, never mind he’s won just one Grand Prix, Fisi has loads of talent, a driving style that’s all artistry and style, smooth as silk and damn fast, finally in a machine that’s up to his level. Alonso’s credentials are also genuine, a young charger mature beyond his years, heir apparent once Michael gives it up. A GP winner in 2003 this will be the year he’s expected to fight for wins week in week out.
Not to be forgotten is Honda’s Jenson Button, still looking for that elusive win after coming so close in his break out season last year and Williams. With two new drivers and the car not yet up to speed the start of 2005 may be a little frustrating for their supporters but Williams can never be written off, the former champions will be back. It will be also interesting to see how the new Red Bull team fares, powered by Cosworth and with David Coulthard at the wheel a surprise is in the offing somewhere along the line. 1997 World Champion Jacques Villenueve is back with the Ferrari powered Sauber, a true racer if there ever was one, if he’s properly motivated then his ‘on the edge’ approach will be a most welcome sight.