This is going to sound weird considering that you don’t know me, but I feel like a proud…older sister*.
See, I liked you instantly the moment I laid eyes on you as a Friday Driver for BMW-Sauber in 2006. In all my years as an F1 fan, that has only happened to 2 other drivers: Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen, so you should be flattered as you’re in good, nay, excellent company. I cannot quite explain it, but there was something about you (and not just your youth at that time) that stood out for me. When I found out that you were nicknamed “Baby Schumi” in your native Germany (let it never be said that I don’t do proper research on the drivers I like), I knew my talent-spotting instincts were spot on. And when you got fined for speeding in the pitlane in that same season? Instead of rolling my eyes and tut-tutting, I laughed and thought, “This kid is going to become a World Champion.”
And boy, you sure made my 2006 prediction come true.
In massive, trailblazing style, at that. You made the then-relatively obscure, B-team Toro Rosso a fan favourite; You took the proverbial “David” that was Red Bull Racing to the top by beating the F1 “Goliaths” left, right, front and center; You raised the bar ridiculously high for F1 newbies; You took the hype surrounding your name and smashed it into pieces with pure talent; You rewrote F1 and Motorsport History Books over and over again.
But you are not perfect. You had your flaws. You hated losing and it showed. You didn’t just beat your teammates, you crushed them. You disobeyed your team. You won so much and dominated so much (not in the ways that Max Moseley likes, though) that you “inspired” a band of ill-informed, so-called F1 fans to boo you every time you appeared on the podium. You became a polarizing F1 figure. I mean, when you get compared to Darth Vader, you know you truly have it made as a Hero/Villain hybrid.
And then that hope, that prayer at the back of my mind finally happened: You decided to join Scuderia Ferrari, a.k.a. the F1 team that I still love/support even if it keeps on breaking my heart into smithereens (masochist much). I know it wasn’t a very-well kept secret, but it was one of those things that refused to sink in with me until I saw you wear that famous red racesuit, much like what happened with Kimi Raikkonen.
Speaking of, it is still pretty much blowing my mind right now that you will finally be teammates with Kimi. Could there be any more of a kickass pairing in F1 2015? None. Zilch. Nada. So please, carry on with that unique bromance thing you have with the Kimster. I’m so looking forward to the (unintentionally) hilarious adverts, interviews and shenanigans you two will provide for us fans this year. Oh, and there’s the racing too, I suppose.
I’m trying my best to keep this funny and light-hearted, but you see, every time I look at you in the Red of Ferrari, I am somehow reminded of Michael Schumacher, and it’s making me—for lack of a better term—very emotional.
I want you to know that I am not expecting a Schumacher-type of domination from you. I am not going to expect you to be The New Ferrari Messiah (or just A Very Naughty Boy**). While I want to say that I will not put undue pressure on you, I know that you are more than capable of handling the harsh and unrealistic expectations of both fans and critics. You live for the pressure. You thrive on pressure. You are not a 4-time World Champion for nothing. You have the talent, the heart, the dedication, the determination, the moxie, the ruthlessness, that intangible something that separates the ordinary drivers from the extraordinary ones. You are someone special and you know it.
Never ever be sorry for following your heart. The fight has not even properly started yet but I already want to thank you: Thank you for breaking out of your comfort zone. Thank you for having the balls to try to revive the wheezing Prancing Horse. Thank you for the leap of faith. Danke.
In my heart, I would like to believe that your childhood hero, your ex-ROC teammate and your beloved friend Schumi is already so, so proud of you.
Whatever happens this year and beyond, you are guaranteed my support and respect.
Best of luck and may you and your finger give them all hell!
See you in Singapore later this year. There’s no way in the world I’ll be missing the Night Race with you and Kimi now representing Ferrari.
*I may be relatively old but I’m nowhere near the “I could be your mother” type of old.
**Oh hey, a Monty Python Reference!