In Formula One, approximately once each decade, there is a standout year that marks a watershed and the figurative passing of the mantle from one generation to the next. In 1975, the precocious Niki Lauda's debut championship win for Ferrari not only heralded a resurgence for the Scuderia, but also ushered out the era of Jackie Stewart and Emerson Fittipaldi, who had won five of the six previous WDC titles between them.
Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher in the Bahrain Grand Prix Thursday press conference © LAT
Lauda himself was the outgoing elder statesman nine years later in 1984. Although he managed to hang on for the closest championship win possible (by just half a point) over McLaren teammate Alain Prost, the turning of the tide was inevitable and Prost went on to championship victory the next season. 1984 was also significant for the F1 arrival of the young Ayrton Senna, whose duels with Prost would become F1 folklore over the next decade.
1994 marked a similar watershed year, albeit for tragic reasons. Ayrton Senna could and should have had the opportunity to fight a season-long battle with his eventual successor, but it was not to be. In 2006, it is Michael Schumacher's turn to face the timeless ritual of succession.
Arguably, the transition has already happened via Fernando Alonso's championship title win in 2005. But Schumacher is far from a spent force, and Ferrari's and Bridgestone's form was so poor last season that Schumacher could have been considered in absentia.