Much has been made about Michael Schumacher's return to the pinnacle of automotive racing, and rightly so. Here is a man with 91 race victories and 7 world drivers championships to his name.
The 2010 season has started in difficult fashion for the German; a 7th, a 10th and a DNF in comparison to his sprightly young team mate, Nico Rosberg. Already the global media have jumped on his back demanding to know why the seemingly invincible ex-Weltmeister isn't trouncing all before him. Such is the nature of the print media, for they are driven by sales and consequential profit - fallacies and exaggerations are to be expected.
Being involved in somebody else's collision, having a loose wheel nut; these are not things that are the fault of somebody who has fallen off their perch. Yet the media are overly keen to place the fault squarely at the German's feet. Secondary to this, they are assuming rather unfairly that Nico Rosberg is worthless, a minor annoyance in the whole make-up of the Mercedes Grand Prix team.
It is grossly unfair to expect Michael Schumacher to pull off results in the manner in which he did from 2001 to 2004, his most dominant period in the sport. A number of factors have influenced this. The most obvious point is that the Mercedes machine of 2010 does not enjoy the same level of superiority that the F2002 had, for example. Yes, Schumacher was and is a superstar driver who will hold his records for many a year, but there is only so much a driver can do with the machinery that he is offered.
Continuing in a similar vein, the bar has been raised by the respective teams on the grid this year. In 2002, only 3 teams managed to reach the top step of the podium. In 2010, this same number of outfits have won in the first 3 races alone. The competition of drivers and teams has been elevated to a higher level; on any given day, a Force India or a Renault can spring a surprise, as was evident in Melbourne only seven days ago.
It can be argued that Schumacher also carries the same aura of dominance about him as he previously did in his 'first' career. If this was not so, his comeback would not have stirred up such a frenzy by drivers, teams, fans and the media alike. For this very reason, is it not to be expected that the former Ferrari driver is carrying a huge set of cross-hairs on his rear wing?
Michael Schumacher is no ordinary driver. What he brings to the sport has a positive effect on everybody, but perhaps to the detriment of his own mini-comeback. To overcome the expectation, the higher level of competition and his own minor faults that he must iron out as he gets back into the grind will be perhaps his greatest achievement. Murray Walker frequently commented that catching is one thing, passing is quite another - 3 down, 16 to go...