This may cause some controversy with the Michael Schumacher fans.
I have not written this to offend the great man—he was an amazing driver—this is indisputable.
However, I feel he has done great damage to the sport and finally F1 has recovered, and we can see the difference without him.
He has been described as “the greatest driver F1 has ever seen” and this statement is not far from the truth.
MS has, as we all know, won seven world championships in 1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. He has 91 race wins, 68 pole positions; the list goes on and on.
Since his move to Scuderia Ferrari in 1996, he dominated the sport with a third place in the 1996 drivers championship.
He was disqualified in the 1997 season for colliding with Jacques Villeneuve purposefully and therefore affecting the drivers’ championship standings, he would off come second, at worst, if he hadn’t acted like a child.
In 1998 he came second, in 1999 he would possibly have come first if he hadn’t crashed and injured himself at Silverstone. Then it came, the streak of five consecutive drivers championship wins.
This is where the damage was done.
The sport became predictable; in the 2004 season he won 13 of the 18 races—a 72% first place conversion rate.
We could almost predict who would win both the drivers and constructors championships from 2001-2004. When a sport becomes predictable, it becomes boring.
In 2002, he won the championship with six races still remaining in the season, which led to a 20% fall in viewing figures for the remaining races.
This came at a point in which F1 was rapidly losing sponsorship deals and money due to the predictability in the 2001 season, the banning of tobacco advertising and yet, the sport still had another three years of MS domination to survive.
ITV viewing figures peaked at 3.3 million viewers, in comparison to the BBC coverage of the Golf Open, which peaked at almost double.
In 2007, ITV viewing figures peaked at 10.7 million, and the average figures are still growing in the 2008 season.
In 2006, Michael announced his retirement and would not compete in F1 after the 2006 season had ended.
This allowed drivers who had, until recently, been hidden under Michael’s shadow—Raikkonen moved to Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton was promoted to a drivers seat at Mclaren, Robert Kubica’s talents were realized—F1 became exciting again.
We all remember the 2007 season—the shock rookie, from Hertfordshire, who took the F1 world by storm and would end the season just one point off of first place Raikkonen.
Then drew second with Fernando Alonso, his teammate at Mclaren. Formula One hasn’t been this close and exciting since the Senna years.
This wasn’t a one off year either.
2008 has seen BMW win their first Grand Prix.
The drivers’ standings are a three-way stand off, with Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, and Kimi Raikkonen, all on 48 points, and Kubica a further two points off.
With viewing figures climbing, too many sponsorship deals to contemplate, new markets, new tracks, Formula One has finally recovered from the Schumacher days.