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    Volume 9 Issue 21| May 21, 2010|

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Rajendra Sarkar

If you are a true sports fan, you've got to love drama. Call it propaganda of the media for attracting the audience or the policy of the concerned person or team for free publicity, even the simplest events of today's sports are dramatised to ridiculous levels. And there's no drama like the COMEBACK-DRAMA.

The world sports arena is rocked by “historic” comebacks every now and then. While in most cases it is nothing short of a misnomer but once or twice a decade we get the privilege to see a truly 'legendary' comeback. Fortunately, its us, the FORMULA1 fans who got lucky this time around. It all happened on an ordinary Wednesday morning (December 24, 2009) when in a press conference, it was declared that Mercedes will be coming back to F1 and the team will be spear headed by none other than Michael Schumacher. And with that simple 20 minute press conference, the world sports took a tumble and landed on its head. By the next 10 minutes, it had become the headline of all the CNNs and BBCs. In the next few hours, Google encountered millions of clicks about this development. And by next morning it became the cover page of most European dailies. Fans pinched hard and then pinched again and finally the word settled in; “THE KING IS COMING BACK”.

Now for those of who don't know (if any) who Michael Schumacher (MSC) is, he is arguably the best F1 driver of all time. He won seven world titles (far more than anyone) at the pinnacle of motor racing and dominated the sport to such an extent that when he retired in 2006, many were relieved at the prospect of having new faces as grand prix winners. Returning to such a competitive sport at the age of 41 (oldest in the grid) is a challenge in itself and let alone the fact that in F1, three years is like light years. It had all the elements to become the ultimate comeback drama for both media and fans. Now for a well orchestrated drama you need a big supporting cast and they all arrived in due time in the shapes of sports commentators and previous and present race drivers. They responsibly took the parts of the defenders, the optimists, the well-wishers, the cynics and (my favourite) the know-alls. Occasional cameos were done by us, the ordinary but genuine fans.

And so the drama began. Even before a single wheel was turned, streams of 'expert' comments started flying. While many predicted that Michael would give other drivers a run for their money, some callously discarded him as an old mistake. Some got thrilled at the prospect of having a four way duel between Schumacher, Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. One thing was for sure, Bernie Eccelstone, the boss of commercial rights of F1, was having his early Christmas bonanza.

The world waited eagerly for the Bahrain GP where the first chapter of the drama will be unfolded. Unfortunately, it didn't unfold with the expected loud bang. Schumacher finished in 6th place out of 24 cars, and considering the length of his hiatus it was more than a respectable beginning. The second race in Australia and third race in Malaysia was a disappointment to say the least. He finished in a mere 10th place in Australia and had to retire in Malaysia due to some wheel-nut problems. The 'race-experts' and the media were not shying away from the blatant cynicism in their remarks and reviews. But all hell broke loose after the fourth chapter in China.

Michael finished in 10th place in a rain soaked Chinese GP. Apart from the disappointing result, his driving came under heavy fire from all quarters. Michael Schumacher was known as the rain-maestro because of his unfathomable speed in wet tracks. But people couldn't find any trace of Michael-Magic or Superb-Schumacher on that rainy day. He was overtaken effortlessly by Hamilton and Vettel more than once and worst of all he couldn't defend his position even against the Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov. He was outclassed by his younger and relatively inexperienced teammate Nico Rosberg who finished 2nd that day. Watching him race that day, it did indeed feel like an old and exhausted man just trying his best to keep up. The reactions were just too damning. Former F1 champion Sir Alex Stewart just simply said that Schumi has lost it. A survey in Germany showed that more than 60% of Schumacher's fellow compatriots believe that he committed a grave mistake by coming back. It seemed this comeback drama is destined for a quick ending and a very sad one at that. Or so it seemed..

The fifth chapter unfolded with a bang in Spain. Armed with his new and heavily improved Mercedes, Schumi arrived with full determination on what was labeled as the do-or-die race for him. And this time around Schumacher did deliver. He was on the pace right from the go. Although his Mercedes was not the sharpest knife in the box but he showed again what true champions are made of. He squeezed the last ounce of performance out of that car and brought it home in a fine 4th place. On top of that, the world again saw his master class when he defended his position brilliantly against the current world champion, Jenson Button, for 49 consecutive laps. His team mate could only manage 12th.

With that, the storyline of the drama changed for the better. The very 'experts' that wrote him off, came back with baskets full of praises. The critics have taken shelter in silence but it's still too early to call. In this long F1 season, we have yet to unveil 14 more chapters. The first five chapters of this comeback drama have already provided us with the materials of a Hollywood blockbuster. And things can only get better from here on.

For the real F1 fans, Michael Schumacher represents an era of speed, dominance and pure excellence. We are living every moment of this rollercoaster drama to the fullest. Just like Lance Armstrong, the whole world is praying for a happy ending to this comeback drama too. Personally, the news of his return was enough to spend all my savings and then some in order to catch a glimpse of this legend in Malaysian GP. Nobody knows what twists this drama may bring in future but one thing is for certain, no matter what, I will wait for that day when I can proudly say… He came, He saw, He conquered… AGAIN.

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