It’s one of the world’s great sporting topics of conversation.
How would Sir Matt Busby’s Manchester United fare against Sir Alex Ferguson’s squad? Or an England cricketing side of the amateur golden age perform if exposed to the modern, professional game peopled by six-foot-plus super-fit giants?
The temporary return of iconic F1 world champion Michael Schumacher to racing has provided fans with hours of material for speculation down the pub.
And, of course, Lewis Hamilton’s supporters are dying to see how he will shape up against the seven-time world champion, especially since he secured his first victory of the season in Hungary.
For the first time since the mid to late 90s, when as many as five drivers who either had won or would win a world championship lined up on the grid together, we have a contest of champions on our hands.
Outside the kind of computer game that allows you to pick the driver of your choice and go head-to-head, that is.
Schumacher’s dominance through the last decade meant that drivers like Mansell, Hill, Hakkinen and Villeneuve retired. And it took a while for the younger challengers to get their eyes in.
In the end it was Renault’s Fernando Alonso who toppled Schumi with his back-to back titles for Renault in 2005 and 2006. Then Kimi Raikkonen, driving for Ferrari, secured the title in 2007 by a single point. Lewis Hamilton was of course the 2008 victor, also by a single point.
Also of great interest is the fact that none of the more obvious contenders for the 2009 title have won already. This means that, not only do we have four world champions competing against each other for the rest of the season, but there’s an excellent chance that a fifth name will join the list in September.
Whether that’s Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel or Mark Webber we will just have to wait and see. Of course the prospect of Ferrari and McLaren regaining their former glories means the fight for points will be tighter than ever.
So, is Hamilton looking forward to the upcoming contest? On hearing of Schumi’s slated return, he said: “Michael is one of the sport’s greatest competitors and a legend in his own right and it would be great to compete against him.
“The whole world will be watching his return to the cockpit in Valencia and it will not only be fascinating to see how he readies himself for his grand prix comeback but also an honour and a privilege to race against him for the very first time. I wish him well.”
Jenson Button, by contrast, has already shared plenty of track time with Schumi. And his comments were decidedly more lukewarm.
He said: “It’s a tough position for him to be in but I’m happy he’s taken up the challenge and it’s very brave of him. He’s still young – 40 is not old and he’ll still be competitive.”