When the Formula One circus convened in Melbourne for the 2007 season opener, the usual eager anticipation was mixed with the disconcerting sense that Michael Schumacher's retirement had created an unfillable vacuum.
After a 16 year career studded with seven championship titles, Schumacher's superstar value could surely not be matched by a field which, Fernando Alonso excepted, did not have a single title-winner among them.
Kimi Raikkonen leading the Australian Grand Prix © LAT
When Schumacher's replacement at Ferrari, the ever-taciturn Kimi Raikkonen, strolled to unchallenged victory in Australia, the disquiet increased. Sure, McLaren and others were making all the right noises about closing the performance gap to the championship leaders. But Ferrari would surely respond via their own development.
The cakewalk championship years of the early 2000s were bad enough, even with Schumacher showcasing his mastery at the head of the field. Another one-sided championship, sans the German legend, would make for a disastrous 2007 season. One of the few bright points of Australia was the composed and competitive debut performance of a 22-year-old rookie ...