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Where’s the champ?

If Indian Formula One fans are a bit biased towards Michael Schumacher, they have fairly good reason to be. Vinayak Pande reports. All the spices

india Updated: Oct 31, 2011 11:04 IST
Vinayak Pande

If Indian Formula One fans are a bit biased towards Michael Schumacher, they have fairly good reason to be.

Since the first time the sport was broadcast in India in 1993, motorsports aficionados have seen the German legend win seven world championships, 90 races (his first win came in 1992) and take the battle for the F1 title to the last race of the season on three occasions, when he came up short.

Upon returning from his three-year hiatus from the sport, those same fans saw the unfamiliar sight of their hero be soundly beaten by his 26-year-old team-mate Nico Rosberg.

The return

While this year has seen a marked improvement in the German’s performance, the sight of the German national anthem being played for Sebastian Vettel at the end of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, with Schumacher nowhere near the podium, remains an unfamiliar one for local fans well-versed with his storied career.

The irony of Fernando Alonso overtaking Schumacher on Lap 17 while driving for a team the German legend pulled up from mediocrity to world-beaters — as Schumi represented a team whose technical director (Bob Bell) designed the Renault cars that Alonso drove to beat the German to the F1 title in 2005 and 2006 — was pretty apparent as well.

Schumacher himself, however, is glad for the presence of Bell in the Mercedes GP factory. “He (Bell) came at a time when this year’s car was already finished,” said Schumacher. “The infrastructure of the team under him is a lot improved. He will be very much into the design of next year's car.”

Schumacher is not willing, however, to jump to the conclusion that 2012 will see him and Mercedes GP fighting for the title. “I think the real potential of this team will not be seen until 2013,” said Schumacher.

The German’s current contract with Mercedes, however, is scheduled to expire at the end of 2012. Schumacher refused to comment on the possibility of a contract extension beyond that point but the powers that be at Mercedes GP are more than happy to have the German back within the motorsports programme that gave him his first big break at the World Sportscar Championship in 1990.

“The circle has closed,” said Mercedes' motorsports director Norbert Haug. “He is back where he started. We helped promote him and get him into F1, and now he is back.”

Now, all that is left is to judge the outcome of Schumacher's second coming.