This is being written in the hours following the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix. Going in, a record would be set, no matter what. Either Kimi Raikkonen became the youngest World Champion, or Michael Schumacher clinched his sixth championship. If you haven’t seen the GP or reports about it, STOP READING NOW unless you want to know the outcome. If you didn’t watch it, I highly recommend that you see any re-broadcast if you can.
In 1957, Juan Manuel Fangio secured his fifth World Championship title in Formula One. A near impossible record that was expected to stand for a long, long time. And rightly so. However, that record was tied in 2002 by a German driver by the name of Michael Schumacher. One year later, on Sunday, 12.October 2003, Fangio’s record stood no more, eclipsed by Michael Schumacher in what has to have been one of his most stressful years. From the new rule changes, to a difficult season kickoff, to the death of his mother, Michael has fought hard and endured tremendous pressure. Today’s race, the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, saw Michael coming in head-to-head with 23 year old Kimi Raikkonen for the battle to win the World Championship. Neither had a remarkable qualifying effort. For one of only a few times (two I think) in his F1 career (something like 12 years!), Michael qualified outside the top ten. Mathematically, Kimi needed to win the race and have Michael finish ninth or worse in order to become the youngest driver in history to win a World Championship. Kimi drove a strong, well-planned race, and Michael displayed an uncharacteristic desperation that nearly cost him dearly. In the end, Michael finished where he needed to be and won his sixth title, and Ferrari won their fifth Constructor’s Title. Now, with six World Championships and being a young 34 years old, Michael has plenty of time to secure one or two more. However, his toughest competition today will be his toughest for many more years. As long as Michael is in F1, I predict his record will stand, though Kimi looks to be talented enough to challenge it. The 2004 season brings a few more regulation changes, and a handful of driver changes, so it should be just as spectacular as this season was. Congrats to Michael for #6, and even though second place is the first loser, congrats to Kimi for a fantastic effort. He will kick some butt next year.