Monday, 3 August 2009

Return of the King

You know the cave drawings of cavemen hunting the T-Rex or any other dinosaurs? How about the imagery of the polar bears and penguins mucking around (in the Coke commercial)? People are funny… they like to juxtaposition stuff which never existed together naturally. The truth is that both scenarios never happened – they are divided by time and geography. Dinosaurs died out millions of years before the first man ever walked the earth, and penguins live in the South Pole of Antarctica while polar bears reside in the North Pole of Artic. They will never meet, except in the imagination of mankind.

People are naturally fascinated when two rivals of different era and geography meet. Remember Jurassic Park or Aliens vs Predator? The excitement of pitching highly competent individuals against one another in scenarios which one never thought would be possible sends the pulse racing. Which is apt that fans of F1 racing were thrown into frenzy after Michael Schumacher announced that he will temporarily return to racing to replace Felipe Massa who was knocked out of action in a freak accident.

Michael Schumacher (or Schummy to his chummies) is the living legend in F1 racing. Unlike Aryton Senna, Schumacher is alive and kicking at just 40 years young. Statistically speaking, he is the most successful F1 driver with the most number of wins, podiums and pole positions. At the top of his game, Schumacher retired in 2006 and became the advisor to the Ferrari racing team, sharing his considerable racing experience with the current drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Räikkönen.

After Michael Schumacher retired, the F1 fans were focused on the strong rivalry between Lewis Hamilton and Alonso. Hamilton quickly became the new darling of the media with his strong billing as a young driving prodigy, who also became the youngest driver to win the F1 championship. There were several F1 drivers who showed sparks of brilliance, such as Jenson Button and Alonso, but the question remained on everyone’s mind – will there be another driver who is as dominant and consistent as Michael Schumacher?

Imagine the flurry of excitement when Schumacher announced that he will return to racing to temporarily replace Massa in the F1 championship! Finally, the world will see a match between “the greatest” and the young turks. How will a 40-year old champion fare who has never driven for 3 years, fare against the zestful and ambitious competition? Can good old experience and maturity win against youth and unbridled drive? Everyone wants to know if young and explosive Lewis can hold up against the brilliant German strategist, to determine if brawn/stamina or brains/experience is the more potent weapon in the high-speed stakes of F1 championship.

But beyond the obvious excitement in the clash of the titans, one can sense how the strength of the Ferrari team lie beyond the simple technical superiority of their cars. Having a world-class champion and a brilliant strategist who stayed with Scuderia Ferrari to impart knowledge and skills, as well as a team of dedicated staff who perform their duties with the precision of clockwork, and such camaraderie that everyone knows their own roles and will chip in to help beyond their work roles. A great car might help a team win a race or a championship, but it is the spirit of a great team that helps a team stay as champions in the long run, even in seasons where their cars are not the greatest. The stewardship of Scuderia Ferrari and their recognition in retaining the best staff and talents is what makes Ferrari great. Any darn fool can make a fast car in one season, but it takes a truly great management to keep the gears of a great team oiled when the season is dry.

Those who know me will understand I’m not just talking about Ferrari.

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