Michael Schumacher: Fernando Alonso hopes to pay tribute to his former rival by emulating Ferrari championship success
Alonso is heading into his fifth year with Ferrari, and hopes that success in 2014 will mirror Schumacher's first title for the Italian's in his fifth attempt back in 2000
Following the unveiling of the new Ferrari F14T, Fernando Alonso admitted he hopes to emulate the most successful driver of all time in Michael Schumacher to pay tribute to the seven-time world champion as he continues to battle for his life due to severe brain injuries.
Schumacher remains in an induced coma after suffering a serious head trauma when he hit his head on a rock in a skiing accident, while on holiday with his friends and family in the exclusive French resort of Meribel.
During his career, Schumacher shot to fame when he won back-to-back drivers’ championships in 1994 and 1995, before moving to Ferrari in an attempt to restore the Italian manufacturer to its former glory.
Despite encountering resistance from both Williams and McLaren (which provided breath-taking battles with both Damon Hill and Mika Hakkinen) Schumacher eventually ended Maranello’s 21 year baron spell by winning the 2000 Drivers’ World Championship – his first of five consecutive titles.
For Alonso, his career can certainly be seen to reflect his former rival’s, having secured back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006 with Renault, the team formed from Benetton’s ashes. Now in his fifth year with Ferrari, the Spaniard hopes that 2014 is his year to shine as he looks to pay tribute to the 45-year-old German.
“Schumacher won the title in his fifth year with Ferrari and I am in my fifth year now. Hopefully I can repeat some if the success he had,” Alonso said having unveiled Ferrari’s 2014 challenged, the F14T.
“In 2010 and 2012 we were very close. Hopefully this will be the good one.”
The 32-year-old joins Felipe Massa in sending a tribute to Schumacher, with the Brazilian sporting his name across his visor at a recent charity karting event as well as admitting he is “praying every day” for his recovery.
Should Schumacher recover, a leading brain injury specialist has stressed that an injury of this magnitude will mean that he will not be the same person that he was before.
Dr Richard Greenwood of the University College London Hospital said: “If Schumacher survives, he will not be Schumacher.
“He will be [Joe] Bloggs. His rehabilitation will only be effective if he comes to terms with being Bloggs.
“That is a very, very hard process to take people through. They need to come to terms with their limitations — the fact they have changed.”
Alonso will have a new team-mate sitting opposite him in the garage this year for the first time since he made the switch from Renault, with Kimi Raikkonen returning to the team he won the 2007 world championship with after leaving Lotus.
The Finn missed the end of last season to undergo back surgery, and despite a row over his pay at the time leading to fears he could refuse to race, Raikkonen insists he had no choice than to go under the knife to correct the problem.
“I didn’t have a choice,” Raikkonen admitted. “I wanted to be 100 per cent and pain free.”
Pre-season testing will get underway at Jerez in Spain on Tuesday, with the rest of the paddock barring Lotus set to join Ferrari, McLaren and Sauber in unveiling their latest model.
Lotus have not confirmed when they will unveil their contender having cancelled their appearance at the first testing session of the new season, amid doubts over their financial stability this season as well as whether they will be ready to go when the first race comes around in Australia in March.
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