There is no doubt that Sebastian has done an absolutely marvelous job. He had an amazing season, so many congratulations to him and his team for a truly sensational season. They did the business last year, but this year’s title victory has been one of the most emphatic in the history of the sport.
In fact, I think it is comparable to the Michael Schumacher/Ferrari years, which brings me neatly to my second round of congratulations. As we know, PUMA announced a partnership with Mercedes GP Petronas earlier this week, and I think that is sensational news, as it brings Michael, Ross Brawn and Mercedes into the PUMA family.
Michael and Ross, his technical director at Ferrari, were a simply unbeatable force for five years, and it is wonderful to think that next year they will be wearing PUMA team apparel. Although PUMA and Mercedes are international brands, both have their roots very much in Germany – as, of course, does Michael – so it all fits perfectly.
Having last year made a return to Formula 1 as team owner, Mercedes GP Petronas is clearly determined to return to the winning ways of its past, and in Michael and Ross – plus, of course, Nico Rosberg, who is a star in the making – the team has real strength in depth. Together Michael and Ross won a record-setting seven championships, and everybody recognizes that Nico has the skills set to emulate his famous father Keke, the 1982 world champion.
PUMA now has partnerships with the two biggest brands in Formula 1. On the one hand the Ferrari partnership brings with it a sense of passion, history and tradition; on the other hand MERCEDES GP PETRONAS is very much a team on the up, combining a winning past with cutting-edge technology. Both are highly respected, but for totally different reasons.
The mind simply boggles at the opportunities provided by the combination of PUMA, Ferrari and MERCEDES GP PETRONAS, particularly when Michael, whose caps sell by the million, and Nico’s youthful style are factored into the equation. Add in Fernando Alonso’s worldwide following and Felipe Massa’s legions of fans in Brazil – F1’s biggest market - and it simply can’t get better for PUMA.
Plus, of course there will be on-track fighting between Ferrari and Mercedes, and that is extremely healthy for the sport. It also means PUMA can’t really lose…
In a small way I would like to think I have a stake in this: originally I brought Michael into Formula 1, and Jordan Grand Prix was the first Formula 1 team sponsored by PUMA, so in a way the circle has closed.
This weekend’s Korean Grand Prix is a tough one to call. As last year’s inaugural race was blighted by rain and a Safety Car which circulated for almost half the distance, we don’t have much of a form book. Yes, Fernando and Ferrari won, but only after Sebastian retired, so we can’t even take history as a pointer.
All I do know is that now the championship is decided, the gloves are off as Jenson Button, Fernando, Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton fight for the consolation prize over the remaining four races. That prospect alone makes Sunday’s 55-lap grand prix a must-see.