Date registered: Sep 2004
Vehicle: 1985 500SEC, 1991 190E 2.6.
Location: Los Angeles / Hannover Germany
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Hill: Ferrari will feel Michael's loss in 2007
Hill: Ferrari will feel Michael's loss in 2007.
Tue 23 Jan, 11:23 AM
Britain's last Formula One world champion, Damon Hill, has said it will be fascinating to see how the sport develops without Michael Schumacher in 2007, and warned Ferrari may lose its competitive edge with its talisman no longer in the driving seat.
While much attention has been paid to the high-profile driver swaps that have seen reigning champion Fernando Alonso switch to a McLaren team that last year failed to win a race for the first time in ten years, and Kimi Raikkonen leave the Woking fold to join Maranello, another key change ahead of the forthcoming season will be the absence of seven-time world champion Schumacher, a man who for more than a decade to all intents and purposes made the sport his own.
"I think it will be quite interesting just to see how it all unfolds without Michael," the 1996 title-winner told Crash.net, when talking about his long-time sparring partner and bitter rival. "I'm not so sure he has left the sport entirely. I think there's a chance we will see him back in some capacity other than driving, but from a competitive point-of-view it does add to the uncertainty of the championship. You could probably put a 50 per cent chance on Michael winning a race when he was driving, maybe even more than that. Now he has left there will be more uncertainty which I believe is better for the sport, better for the racing and better for enticing people to turn on and watch.
The current British Racing Drivers' Club President said one of the knock-on consequences of the German's departure would be a 'land grab' effect, with all of the up-and-coming young charges determined to stake their claim to grand prix glory.
"For a long time he dominated the sport to such a degree there was less interest unless you were a completely devoted Michael Schumacher and Ferrari fan," the 46-year-old explained. "Formula One now will have a fresh start, with a lot of young guys keen to make their name at the top. There's going to be a land grab, which should make for some good racing, with everybody trying to occupy the space that's been left by Michael leaving."
As to his predictions for glory in 2007, Hill stuck by paddock consensus that Kimi Raikkonen is the man in the hot seat, though he acknowledged the fact the Finn has some big boots to fill at Ferrari now Schumacher has gone.
"I think Kimi has to be in a better position than anyone else," he asserted. "He has got undoubted potential and speed, he just hasn't had the equipment so far. I think he was so frustrated at McLaren. One of the questions with Ferrari is what will be the effect on motivation now Michael has left? Will that still be maintained? Not only has Michael left, but Ross Brawn is taking some time off - the team is not the same as it was when Michael was there. There may be a negative factor within the team because of that, which in turn may lead to more unreliability and less competitiveness for Kimi to exploit."