Every Two Sundays: A Grand Prix Fan's Perspective (Part 2)
This is the second part of my article relating my own experiences of being a Grand Prix fan and attempting to compare them with other fans of our beloved sport.
In this article, I explain how I became a complete Formula One fan and also, how the last few years have been odd, agonising and at times, simply just annoying. Hope you enjoy it.
2000: Schumacher's Breakthrough
The season 2000 was a tight one, with Hakkinen and Coulthard appearing as strong as ever, but the Ferrari act seemed to have come together finally. Michael Schumacher began winning with more frequency.
The Australian Grand Prix that year involved an odd occurence. Ralf Schumacher had been tagged by Jacques Villeneuve's BAR Honda and the Canadian and German had been sent flying into the air.
A marshal had been killed in the accident. I thought now that the drivers were so safe they could never die in an accident again, it was everyone else in danger now.
So Schumacher won the Championship. I thought he had to do it some time. I accepted 2000 as a painful necessity of statistics. Surely he had to wrap up at least one title at Ferrari?
But no, it was not to be a flash in the pan or a trick of sheer statistics. It was to be statistics rewritten. Schumacher won again, and again and again and AGAIN!
Slowly as I watched and the years advanced, tuning in to the Grand Prix filled me with an odd sensation.
As I watched the build up and remember the qualifying the day before, a feeling in my chest of immense apprehension built every race.
Whoever was the man who was Michael's rival, whether it be Hakkinen, Coulthard, Ralf or whoever I knew whilst simultaneously hoping otherwise, that they could not win. 2002 proved this more than any other year.
The races would begin, and it didn't matter where Michael Schumacher started, I just knew it! I knew he would find some way to the front!
Ron Dennis claims the first thing he feels on Mondays after a Grand Prix his cars did not win is pain, it was a similar feeling.
Williams, McLaren, Renault, Honda, to be honest I wasn't a proper fan (of course I was always McLaren) of any team, as long as they were going to trounce Ferrari. Their tactics and their forgiven infringements as well, burned up my temper.
Bitterness isn't really the word and it stays to this day. Escaping penalties for his aggressive driving against his brother in 2001 and 2002 and various other aspects of the Ferrari operation made me want to hate F1, but I couldn't because I loved it.
I don't know if anyone else experienced anything like this? All throughout the 2000's until 2004, I loathed Ferrari.
Closer races in 2003 brought the excitement level right back up after anti-Ferrari measures were employed. They made the races closer and Michael Schumacher still won.
I didn't mind as much, the man was beginning to look beatable. However, with Ferrari so dominant the previous year, I learned a trick for coping. Watching the lower teams.
In 2002, a driver arrived in F1 that was endlessly entertaining to watch and very likeable to the point where you willed him on even though he was really struggling. His name was Takuma Sato.
Cheering for the Underdog
As I said, with closer competition in 2003 and onwards the viewing was a little more bearable but watching the underdogs, led by Taku proved as entertaining when nothing much was happening.
College provided me with spare time in 2002, and I watched every car event that TV would provide. I had watched Sato race away dominating British F3. He was a hoot to watch in F1, but not for the right reasons.
I became protective of him, though, because he did provide me with entertainment and for a long time he did what few others were willing to do in racing; Sato would have a go, whether it was on or not.
So because he would have a go, we saw him flying off the circuit in Spain all on his own, he raced up the backside of his own teammate, he got smashed off the circuit at A1 Ring and Monza, and he had bumps and scrapes too numerous to mention. But he got those two points in Japan. Somehow this made 2002 okay, I could live with it.
Sato was a diversion away from admitting Schumacher's dominance. It's difficult to believe now that when Renault began to come good and challenge for the championship, I supported Alonso and actually wished he had driven for McLaren!
By this time, 2004 and 2005, I had a Grand Prix weekend sealed off. That was it, the race was on, no activity ever took precedence over Qualifying and the Grand Prix.
Nothing at all and I would now not tolerate not seeing the action live. It's pretty hardcore but I can't help it and I know there are others like this.
2006 was a great year for racing. I enjoyed it so much chiefly because we saw Schumacher fail to win another World Championship, but also because the racing was good and the best news I had heard had been announced; Michael Schumacher would retire at the end of the season.
Everytime the German won, I would groan and writhe and sigh in disappointment and distress, but it was okay, he was retiring. Everything was okay, he was retiring. The only bad news was that one of my favourite drivers "had stabbed me in the back" in a personal way. Kimi Raikkonen was moving to Ferrari.
Traitor. Once red always red, you can never come back from it. Well, unless you're really likeable like Barrichello.
For me personally as a McLaren fan and a fan of Grand Prix racing, 2007 was tense, exciting and gut-wrenchingly disappointing. The silver world of McLaren, despite midseason domination, was falling apart.
Spygate and the emergence of Alonso actually being a giant baby were panic crises which I could almost not handle watching. It was uncomfortable and it looked dirty.
I also found that the sport was barely recognisable without Michael Schumacher. I discovered that this man, who I hated as a racing driver, had actually made me the fan of the sport that I now am.
By bitterly wanting him to be beaten and placing hope and faith and love and support in my team, against his, I had become so embroiled in the sport. Now he was gone. What does one do when someone gets what they want?
Luckily, my thirst for the sport has not tired and finding Bleacher Report and its ardent fans with like and countering opinions helps to fuel continued interest in Formula 1.
Luckily as a Brit and a fan of McLaren, I have Lewis Hamilton to cheer on and support now. With Ferrari receiving unfair favouritism treatment as usual, there is still plenty to fight against from my armchair!
For next year it looks like my new biggest hated driver; Fernando Alonso, may be switching to Ferrari. So it can be just like the old days.
I hope people have enjoyed and perhaps related a little to some of this stuff here, I think if people do not then it just makes me a lunatic fanatic. Which is okay by me.
It was a long one, but thank you for reading this. I love this sport and I'm sure you all do, you just took a little trip into my living room, watched me sulk, swear, rant, discuss and wince at the action unfolding every second Sunday of the summer.
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