Fighting Schumacher continues to dream
This blog entry is being penned as I fly over Quanzhou on my way to Shanghai at 3,9101ft, travelling at 616mph.
I've just watched possibly the greatest boxing movie ever made, in my humble opinion. The Fighter is a gritty, emotive film about human endeavour, sporting brilliance, and defying the odds. Christian Bale is a master of his craft, isn't he?
It got me thinking of some of the greatest sporting tales ever told. I grew up with my Dad regaling me with tales of watching George Best's electrifying feat at the 1968 European Cup final. We all know about the sheer bravery and mastery that Sir Steve Redgrave displayed in winning Olympic gold number five or Red Rum's historic third Grand National win in 1977.
Now, imagine seeing Michael Schumacher crossing the line to bag win 92 of his career. In his 40s, having had three years in retirement, his return initially fails to deliver... and then, finally, it happens. Where would that rank, do you think?
I know opinion is divided on Michael and it's a shame some of his incredible drives fight for space in our memories with the controversial battle with Jacques Villeneuve at Jerez in 1997 or his demotion to the back of the grid during qualifying at Monaco in 2006. However, don't underestimate what a win would really mean and tell us about him.
This sport moves at such pace that, within a season or two, reining in these cars is like going into a cage with a totally new species of wild animal. They react differently; the cars evolve during the race to such an extent a completely new driving style is suddenly required.
Fans of Michael Schumacher would love to see him do something special again (AFP)
The demands on a driver's time are greater than ever and unlike in his first career, Michael's perfomances are immediately live on the internet, being discussed on message boards and the subject of 140-character reviews courtesy of the Twitter revolution.
Not only is Michael compared to contemporaries in his 20s, but perhaps even more unforgiving is that he's compared to himself in his 20s.
We arrive at a circuit and immediately mention Michael 'has won here more than anyone else', 'took pole here by over a second in 2002' or said it is 'where Michael secured his seventh title'. Sometimes, living up to your own legacy must be that hardest act of all.
One thing is for sure, just like the film, Michael is a fighter and will battle on. Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn will be aware every time he looks at 'Schumi' that if he can produce the car, Michael can produce the drive.
Mind you, he'll have to go some way to beat the current drivers' championship leader. The last time a driver won the first two races and failed to take the title we were watching Back To The Future and listening to Bros, so history is on Sebastian Vettel's side, but I get the impression that the sport isn't.
What I mean by that is that these days the rate of development and evolution is so unrelenting and punishing that I'd be surprised if the lights at Brackley, Woking, Milton Keynes, Grove or Maranello are ever turned off.
The same incredible process of change also applies to each grand prix itself. Pirelli deserves a huge round of applause for giving us tyres that are delivering precisely what the sport wanted - drivers flying on one lap and driving like my Grandpa Bernard used to in his white Maxi on the next. The 24 gladiators may hate having a chariot that performs so differently during the space of 50-something laps but it makes it great for you at home.
I know with DRS, KERS, tyre degradation, Plan A and B along with all the other elements of a Grand Prix, at times it must seem like a Higher Maths A-Level lesson but I must say Martin Brundle and David Coulthard do a great job at making sense of the madness.
Some bad luck and his old adversary Fernando Alonso cost Hamilton in Malaysia (Getty)
Ooh, we've just been told 30 minutes to landing, as the season-long treadmill really gets into its stride. We'll be at the track before we know it and I think this is a good weekend to keep your eyes on the men straining every siney, making every move on and off track, and not resting for a moment in an attempt to ramp up the pressure on Seb.
Lewis Hamilton. I saw him after the last GP, a race where strategy, bad luck and his old pal Fernando created the perfect storm to wreck his race. He said 'that's racing' but he knows the facts tell us he was as quick in race-pace as Seb, and he'll take heart from that.
How about Mark Webber? If something is going wrong with one of the Red Bull RB7s it seems to go wrong for his. Two difficult GPs, a dodgy KERS system and four stops compared to just two made by Kamui Kobayashi in Malaysia. However, 12 months ago Seb had no luck and hardly any points. Mark, by contrast, has had two strong finishes - and points mean prizes.
And what of Fernando Alonso? I spent a week at the same holiday resort as him after the Australian race and we were laughing together as he went out day after day to play golf in the driving rain whilst I used the weather as an excuse to do a LOT of sleeping. A bit of rain? No problem for Fernando and that sums up his single-minded determination to achieve what he wants and it won't change this year. A car noticeably slower than McLaren and still managing to race Lewis on the track.
Two races in and I think that the competition at the front seems more aggressive and competitive than I've seen since I started this job. Another great reason to leap out of bed early on Friday morning, hey?
And finally, on that note, thanks to the millions who sacrificed a Sunday morning snooze for last weekend's race. The Malaysian GP enjoyed the highest viewing figures on record and the whole production team were delighted when we discussed it the morning after the race over a breakfast of roti bread and vegetable dhal. Great motivation for all!
Looking forward to sharing this Sunday morning with you too.