WHEN Michael Schumacher looked in his rearview mirrors on the 62nd lap of his brutally disappointing Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, he saw the future arriving at a rate of knots. It was carried along in the blue- and-yellow fuselage of a Renault driven with tremendous panache by the youngest man ever to win a Formula One world championship encounter. At 22 years and 26 days, Fernando Alonso out-pointed the 1952 Indianapolis 500 winner, Troy Ruttman (22 years 80 days), and the 1959 US Grand Prix winner, Bruce McLaren (22 years 104 days), and wrote himself into the history books.
It's not the first time that the reigning champion has been operating at close quarters with the Spanish sensation in 2003. At both Silverstone and Hockenheim he had plenty of time to study the young driver's form, especially when he was edging him on to the grass at the former. But this was the first time that Schumacher had ever suffered the indignity of being lapped by Alonso. It may not be the last.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Kimi Raikkonen, the two drivers who have pounced on to Schumacher's back like jackals on a donkey in one of the most riveting title fights seen in years, are rightly recognised as megastars of the future. Men who will take the fight to Schumacher. But the real cognoscenti believe that Alonso is the new man who will go all the way and become the yardstick by which the others are judged once the grand master is finally ready to hang up his helmet.
The Williams-BMWs had the speed to win on Sunday and, indeed, should have done precisely that. There was an element of misfortune in the fact that both Ralf Schumacher and Montoya, second and fourth fastest in qualifying, had to start from the dirty, righthand side of the grid. That made their cars slow away and left them swamped at the start. …