He's barely been back in the game 48 hours but already Michael Schumacher has caused controversy in the Formula One World. To be fair, there's not much sign of it in the actual Formula One World, but there's been a huge amount of debate on Twitter today.
The reason is that Ferrari, having given Schumacher a run in a 2007 Ferrari, have asked the FIA, with the backing of FOTA, the teams' organisation, to let him have a day's testing in this year's car. This would be an exception to the rules which prohibit in season testing.
I'm pretty relaxed about Ferrari's request and, in an acid test, I would feel the same way if one of my least favourite teams, McLaren and Williams, were asking the same thing.
Much has been said in the Twitterverse about Schumacher having rules bent for him that weren't broken for 19 year old rookie Jaime Alguersueri for his F1 debut last weekend. For a start, Toro Rosso is part of FOTA, who have agreed to the Schumacher test. Secondly, we don't know whether their team prinicpal Franz Tost asked for a day's testing for Jaime. Frankly, if I had been him, I would have done. I would have wanted to make sure that my new driver was comfortable with the car and could actually turn a corner in it. Mind you, if I had been him, I wouldn't have sacked Sebastien Bourdais the race before upgrading the car in the first place, but that's another story.
All the teams are in agreement that the rules on in season testing are daft, anyway, so I expect they wouldn't see much harm to Ferrari's request.
There's also an argument to allow it on the ground of fairness to the driver. All the drivers who started the season were all able to test this year's model of the car before they raced in Australia. Surely anybody new who comes on to the grid should be given the same opportunity.
I would certainly say that the car Schumacher tests should be identical to the one they raced at the Hungaroring last week, with no new added bits to give the team an unfair advantage, but I think Ferrari may been helpful in setting a useful precedent that will help new drivers in the future.
I thought it was terrible and potentially unsafe to force Jaime Alguesuari out to do his first ever run in the car he was supposed to be racing on Sunday 48 hours beforehand in front of the world's motorsport press. If Toro Rosso didn't request testing for him, then it's a scandal. Michael Schumacher is no rookie, but by the same token, he should be able to drive a fair distance in the car just to get his body used to the g-forces a race puts you under. You can't blame Ferrari for being more ahead of the game and I think they've made a smart move.
UPDATE: James Allen, who is undeniably better placed to know these things, says that that other teams aren't unanimous in giving their agreement to this so the actual test won't happen. He gives some good insights into what it will be like for Schumacher has he gets up to speed with an F1 car again.