In the press conference, the over-achieving German suggested that it had been a "nice little fight," and maybe, from the vantage point of an F2004 cockpit, it might have been. But for the millions of us watching on the box, it was limb-chewingly tedious. Not only was there no jousting, but we couldn't even see the artistry.
Back in the old days, you could at least see the car's dancing on the limit of adhesion. Watch footage of Gilles Villeneuve in the '70s, or even Ayrton Senna in the '80s and you'll see the genius. Back then, oversteer was a tool in the driver's armory, not an evil to be slaughtered by an electronic aid. Schumacher is unquestionably in the Villeneuve/Senna class but his brilliance is hidden from view. Even the in-car footage is sober.
The lack of actual racing is undoubtedly a factor in the sports' failure to permeate the U.S. market to any great degree. While European purists mock NASCAR as being horribly unsophisticated, there can be no denying that it serves up exciting action and characterful drivers. Even Champ Cars and the IRL deliver more actual racing than F1.
F1's top brass is not blind to these concerns. Significant and ostensibly sensible changes to the regulations have been proposed by FIA President Max Mosley, but while they seek to reduce costs, it's questionable as to whether they will actually improve the racing. They may also yet be compromised by the political shenanigans that accompany any F1 decision
Some people will look at the viewing figures and the success of the PR stunts and conclude that my sentiments border on the paranoid. But I'm not so sure. The F1 bubble cannot last forever and action needs to be taken before the whole sport disappears up its own bottom.