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GP Week : Issue 57
>> GPWEEKOPINION end of 2009 is a very big deal indeed. The signing of a new Concorde and the return of the legend that is Michael Schumacher may have overtaken the news of the team’s departure, but its impact is vast. We have now lost two manufacturers within the space of a year. BMW, like Honda, had failed to live up to the promise it had shown as an engine supplier, and the board had to make a choice. It’s a choice that the employees at Hinwil, as their counterparts at Brackley, will feel the hardest. And just as at Brackley, it is a management takeover which holds the highest hopes for those employees to keep their jobs. Peter Sauber is looking for a way to save the team, and while many of us would get misty-eyed over a return of a Sauber F1 Team, Peter himself insists his days of sitting on the pit wall are over. BMW’s departure is, of course, simply a part of F1. The yin and yang of the makeup of the F1 grid has always been in flux. And thus will it ever be. No team can make excuses forever. And yet, for BMW, it seems that just one season of underperforming was enough to make its mind up. Perhaps then, the board was never all that bothered. With talk that Renault, too, is considering selling up, is this the beginning of the end of the era of the manufacturers? If so it has been on the cards for some time. Perhaps it is only right then, that it is at this moment that Michael Schumacher has returned. His career and legend were born as the era of the big manufacturers really began. Could there be a more fitting way for the era of manufacturer dominance to end, than by the man who came to define that very era making an unprecedented comeback to write one unexpected extra chapter in the story of his legend? I can think of nothing better. Roll on Valencia. Get your tickets while you can. Oh, and let’s not even get into how epic Spa’s going to be. Can … Not … Wait! A feast in store So it looks as though the manoeuvring is over. Gorgeous Jorge is set to do the right thing by Yamaha, by the fans, and by the sport. And surely by himself. He will stay at Yamaha, right on the other side of the wall from Valentino Rossi, and punch it out with racing’s biggest star on equal terms. Why the right thing? Because it proves that for all his career consciousness, Jorge is a pure racer at heart. As if anyone could have had any doubt. Rossi will doubtless be a little dismayed. He’d recommended that Jorge move on “because I am at Yamaha”. Can you spot the hidden agenda? Wisely, Lorenzo obviously did. He didn’t take the advice of his most significant rival. The Lorenzo/Rossi show, hand in hand with the superiority of Yamaha’s extraordinarily wellrounded 2009 M1, has been the central pillar of this vintage season of racing. Jorge beat him a couple of times earlier in the year, The turning point came with Rossi’s brilliant last-corner move at Catalunya. Since then, Valentino has held the upper hand. Albeit very narrowly. This may be because he prefers, in the words of the old song, to win at the slowest possible speed. At the same time, it must have struck a chord in Germany when Lorenzo, who had finished just 0.099 seconds behind (echoing his new racing number) said: “I am disappointed because that is normal when you are second. But I am getting better, and one day perhaps I will win.” How long will this rivalry last? Rossi is 30, and clearly approaching his last years. Jorge is just 22, and (you might say) just getting going on the big bikes. It will last, then, just as long as Rossi cares to prolong it. You would have to say that he shows no signs at present of wanting to cut it short. Rossi is sportsman enough to enjoy competition, the stiffer the better. And he is racer enough to be confident in his own ability to dominate. It’s never let him down before, after all. Over all those years. On the other hand, time may be a great healer, but it’s no elixir of youth. One does get older. And one’s priorities change. But there’s not much danger there either. Vale has 100 wins. He needs another 23 to go one better than Ago. Seven remain this year, 18 are scheduled in 2010. If he was to win every one, he could give in to inevitability and retire satisfied. Not much chance of that happening, however, with Jorge, Dani and Casey on the same race-track. Beating Ago will take Valentino at least until the end of 2011. But Jorge will be 25 then, and hitting his natural peak. So it might take longer still What a feast for the rest of us. 2 opinion