Each New Year brings with it the promise of a new dawn in the sport, a fresh cycle in the ebb and flow of fortunes, the ascendancy and waning of F1 empires, the next level in the technological race for supreme dominance. Often, the new season turns out to be little more than a continuation of the status quo. However, the 2007 season offers a combination of a sea change in some areas of the sport - and no change at all in others.
Alonso moves to McLaren for 2007 © Reuters
If motor racing is the complete blend of humanity and machinery, it is the human face of F1 that will change in 2007. Gone are the scarlet star-bedecked helmet, the consummate professionalism, the all-weather preparedness, the podium victory leap, the perspiration-free meticulously worded post-race interviews and the other trademarks that seven-time champion Michael Schumacher brought to the sport. For that alone, 2007 will be a watershed year as the sport welcomes a new generation of challengers.
It has been twelve years and a couple of months since Michael Schumacher took his maiden F1 title, inheriting Ayrton Senna's mantle and filling the void that the Brazilian world champion's death had left. It was a particularly abrupt transition, with Schumacher inheriting his position through circumstance as well as his own burgeoning talent.
The opposite bookend of Schumacher's career has seen an altogether more fluid generational transition. The sport's fans have had two years to grow accustomed to Spaniard Fernando Alonso as F1's new star and (with Schumacher's retirement) the sole champion driver in the field.