Deja vu as Schuminator rules F1
22 March 2004
HAMBURG – Michael Schumacher was back at his Swiss home on Monday to celebrate the fifth birthday of his son Mick.
Others, meanwhile, congratulated Schumacher himself the day after he claimed his second win in as many Formula One season races in Sepang at the Malaysian Grand Prix.
“Congratulations Mr. Unbeatable. Congratulations Schuminator,” said Germany’s mass circulation paper Bild.
“Never has a man dominated a sport in such a way.
“No one will ever beat him.
“Congratulations to a seventh world title,” Bild said.
Former world champion Niki Lauda also hailed Schumacher’s total dominance in his Ferrari and named it a worst-case scenario for the main rivals McLaren-Mercedes and Williams-BMW.
“The German teams were talking about the world title in winter, and then Schumacher comes along, wins the first two races of the season, and Ferrari win 33 of 36 possible points.
“The others should pack up and go,” said Lauda.
Italian daily La Repubblica simply asked: “The others – where were they?”
The shock for the opposition must be profound as the dominance of Schumacher and Ferrari seemed all but over when the German only barely beat McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen for a historic sixth world title last year.
But now Schumacher appears to be as strong as in 2002 when Ferrari totally dominated the scene.
“It is easier to lead rather than have to fight back like last year,” said Schumacher, who did not even make the podium in his first three races in 2003.
Schumacher also warned that a seventh title was no forgone conclusion just because he won the first two races.
“It is only two of 18 races. There is 16 to go,” said Schumacher, who dedicated his 72nd career win to his son.
But even Ferrari’s technical director Ross Brawn named Schumacher “stronger than in the past”.
The opposition was left to lick their wounds as Schumacher defied the odds by dominating in sweltering Sepang just like he had in cool Melbourne two weeks ago.
The 2002 race winner Ralf Schumacher failed to finish in his Williams and so did the 2003 winner Raikkonen, who had to retire for the second race in a row.
Juan Pablo Montoya saved face for Williams by placing second while McLaren had to settle for sixth place from David Coulthard.
“We at least became more competitive,” said McLaren chief Ron Dennis.
Apart from Ferrari, there was also joy at BAR-Honda as their British driver Jenson Button climbed the podium for the first time in his career in third place.
Button said he was “ecstatic” and very optimistic for the future.
“This shows that we have a bright future ahead of us.”
The next test comes in fortnight at the inaugural Bahrain Grand Prix, where Schumacher must be rated favourite again although he played down his chances in familiar fashion.
“Nobody knows exactly what is going to happen there, what sort of characteristics (the course has) and who it favors,” said Schumacher.