Schumacher's return too much to ask


Oh Schumi, you only teased us.

You are "The Great One," but you couldn't do it, after all. Formula One could have used the boost.

Headlines of your triumphant return -- "Michael Schumacher, The Greatest Driver in F1 History, Wins Again" -- sure would have helped things. Heck, even a non-triumphant return would have worked wonders.

Alas, it was not to be. The European Grand Prix at Valencia, Spain, on Sunday will have to get by without you.

You said it was a neck injury from your motorcycle accident that kept your 40-year-old body from working right and made you change your mind about replacing the injured Felipe Massa in that Ferrari.

Was it really the neck, Schumi? Or did you get back in the seat, make a few test laps and realize, "Oh man, I'm too old for this. I can't do this anymore."

I guess we'll never know, not that I blame you. Hey, Father Time catches us all. I used to throw a pretty mean fastball back in the day. Now I'm happy if I can throw a stick halfway across the yard for my dog to fetch.

Instead of enjoying your comeback with the world watching, we'll have to settle for Italian Luca Badoer, also making a little comeback after a 10-year wait to get back in an F1 race.

Man, talk about a buzz kill.

But thanks for agreeing to show up in Valencia, Schumi. Nice of you to lend support to Luca and the team this weekend.

Of course, A.J. Foyt will be at the IndyCar Series race this weekend in Sonoma, and that doesn't do much for me, either.

We miss you Schumi. We need you like the NFL needs Brett Favre.

Uh, check that. Actually, the NFL is sick of Brett Favre, but you get my point.

These are tough times for F1, a fact of life for all motorsports right now, as you well know.

Honda said adios to F1 after last season. BMW is taking a powder after this season. Two major auto manufacturers gone, just like that.

A side note to you Beemer execs (yes, I know, the nickname is officially Bimmer, but us unsophisticated Yanks across the pond like to say Beemer): NASCAR would love to have you. That 528i is a little pricey, but it sure would look good as a Cup car.

You Honda boys are welcome, also. Toyota is daring you to come.

Anyway, back to you, Schumi, and your beloved F1. The series was headed for a civil war earlier this year before cooler heads prevailed.

That kooky old Max Mosley (president of your governing body, the FIA) is retiring after having to back down from his cost-reduction demands.

Unfortunately, kookier Bernie Ecclestone, F1's fearless leader, continues his reign, even after saying Hitler "got things done."

Yes, F1 life goes on without you, Schumi. All is not lost. Let's be positive.

Good things are happening. For one, F1 just avoided disaster by overturning a ban on the Renault team for Sunday's race.

That enabled your old rival, Spain's own Fernando Alonso, to compete this weekend. Now Schumi, you're one heck of a popular guy, but you ain't no Fernando to the Spaniards.

You might as well have Christmas without Santa Claus as to race in Valencia without Alonso. The team letting him go on the track with a loose wheel last month wasn't good, but racing in Spain without him might have caused a riot.

We know you would have loved to bump wheels with Alonso on Sunday, but at least you can see if the competition continues to catch up with Jenson Button and the Brawn Mercedes team.

Button was running away with things earlier this season, but the Red Bull boys -- Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel -- are putting up a fight now.

And your Ferrari buds finally are getting their act together, too late for any title contention, but enough to make things interesting.

Yes, things are looking up, Schumi, especially for next year. New teams are coming in and 26 cars -- up from 22 -- are expected on the 2010 grid.

That includes an American entry based in Charlotte -- the new USF1 team. Even YouTube founder Chad Hurley has joined the operation, bringing some much-needed cash to the program.

And North America will have a race again if the Canadian Grand Prix returns to Montreal next year, as expected. You remember that place, Schumi. You won there seven times.

So F1 will go one without you, Schumi. It sure would have been fun to see you in the car this weekend, doing your thing like it was 2004 all over again.

But you decided you couldn't turn back the clock. That's OK, Schumi. It was just too much to ask.

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. His book, "The Blount Report: NASCAR's Most Overrated and Underrated Drivers, Cars, Teams, and Tracks," was published by Triumph Books and is available in bookstores. Click here to order a copy. Blount can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.