Just Give it to Him

INDIANAPOLIS – So let’s just give it to him. Seventy-seven wins (and counting), seven at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on Montreal’s Ile Notre Dame, a big “W” in all but one race in the 2004 season and the list is getting longer by the minute for Michael Schumacher, the man who is King of Formula One.

Schumi will soon take his seventh World Championship – and it could be a foregone conclusion by the end of festivities this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s time for the United States Grand Prix – being held in June rather than September, where the race defined title #6 for Michael Schumacher last year.

And why should anyone in the contingent 48 states give a hoot? Well, if you’ve never seen Mr. Schumacher ply his trade, now would be a good time. After all, he’s not going to be doing this forever, will he? Oh dear, will he???

There have been other times during the modern motorsports era when drivers have dominated their series without peer, but Schumacher has been doing this for so long and at such a level as to inspire boredom.

Even as we admire his abilities, we gnash our teeth wondering if someone somewhere can come along and vanquish Schumi. Thus far ain’t so. Try as they might, the denizens of BMW-Williams, West McLaren-Mercedes, BAR Honda and Renault have been unable to take him down.

Do we all remember what Scuderia Ferrari was like pre-Michael? Do we recall the depths of frustration the proud Italians suffered? Do we remind ourselves that we asked, time and again whether the Italian modus operandi was to blame and yes, did Ferrari need some good British and/or German infusion?

Well, they got it and, while many derided Michael Schumacher for leaving Benetton/Ford to go to Ferrari, he showed us all that his was the correct path. The Ferrari resurgence didn’t happen all at once; in fact, it took time.

It took lots of time as Schumacher finished third in his first try with Ferrari and was even excluded from the 1997 World Championship for naughty driving. Michael was second in 1998, fifth (due to injuries) in 1999.

As the centuries changed, so then did Schumacher’s and Ferrari’s fortunes. 2000 was their crowning year as the team infused with the talents of Schumacher, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Jean Todt et al came into their own.

They haven’t looked back and, quite frankly they haven’t looked bad while performing the feats and accomplishments. Strength upon strength piled up for Michael Schumacher and the team he put together.

Anyone who has ever worked with this German has come to love him and his work ethic. Schumacher has this ability to meld a team to his needs and make them the needs of his team. Offices at Cosworth Racing in Northampton continue to be endowed with signed images of the mighty Schumi in his blue Benetton/Ford; he still inspires these folks nearly a decade after leaving them.

Michael Schumacher is no angel as his rough driving DQ in 1997 shows and his maneuvers in the Monaco tunnel just this May reveals. But then, angels aren’t winners in the broad scheme of things and winning is something Michael Schumacher appears to do with ease.

This weekend marks the halfway point in the 2004 FIA World Championship; once the United States Grand Prix is completed, there will be nine races remaining. Michael Schumacher has 70 points going into this weekend and could easily have 80 coming out, which means that, due to that faux pas at Monaco, Schumi can’t take the title on our shores.

Schumacher can embrace his seventh World Driving Championship though, and to see him in his prime at the age of 35, long after most of his competitors have given up the ghost of a fight should be required watching for anyone who appreciates the intricacies of finesse behind the wheel.

The USGP offers fans the opportunity to see F1 machines up close and personal with the Thursday morning Pit Walkabout for ticket holders, something available nowhere else in the world. The USGP offers fans the ability to watch Formula One practice, qualifying and the race itself without giving up their weekly paychecks, seemingly a requirement for entry to most NASCAR Nextel Cup events that keep getting more and more expensive by the minute.

The United States Grand Prix may not offer the vast number of lead changes or overtaking through the field that we have come to expect in the Indy Racing League’s IndyCar Series and NASCAR, but it will give fans a week’s worth of celebration for life in the fast lane.

The City of Indianapolis and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have taken the United States Grand Prix to its collective heart. With good seats still remaining and exemplary general admission viewing areas, Indy ought to be the center of the racing universe this weekend.

Your complicity in making that occur is not only desired, it is required. Why? The opportunity to see 800-pound gorilla Michael Schumacher and the 19 drivers who wish they could catch him presents a chance to watch history being made.

(c) 2004 Anne Proffit

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