Schumacher begins ‘last’ F1 season with questions
Michael Schumacher enters the last season of his three-year
Formula One comeback with plenty of questions surrounding the
seven-time world champion.
Schumacher’s decision to end his retirement in December 2009 was
initially greeted with euphoria. But the 43-year-old German has
fallen short of expectations, and now another F1 season awaits
starting with the Australian Grand Prix on March 18.
Schumacher has won the most world championships as well as most
wins (91) and pole positions (68). However, in the two seasons
since joining Mercedes, when he looked to follow Niki Lauda and
Alain Prost as drivers who came out of retirement to win F1 titles,
his best performance was fourth at the Canadian GP.
Another German, Sebastian Vettel, enters the season as clear
favorite. He is trying to win a third straight title on a
competitive grid that also includes former champions Fernando
Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen.
”Victory to me is unlikely, I see Red Bull in front,”
Schumacher said. ”Behind them it will be tight, and you can be
either hero or zero very quickly. It will come down a lot to the
ability of how well you will be setting up your car to the
Schumacher joined Mercedes after the German manufacturer bought
out Brawn, F1’s then-reigning constructors’ champion. He was
reunited with Ross Brawn, his technical director at Ferrari, where
he won five of his titles, and was joined by promising German
driver Nico Rosberg.
”Both drivers are capable of winning. There’s no doubt in my
mind about that,” Brawn said. ”We have got to produce the car. I
don’t think we have the car yet but it has been a good step over
where we were 12 months ago.”
But the script hasn’t gone to plan as Schumacher regularly
finished in the top-10 but never challenged front-runners Red Bull,
McLaren or Ferrari over the past two seasons.
Still, Schumacher was upbeat about his W03 car’s reliability
”There is potential,” Schumacher said. ”I do not have a clear
picture yet. What we can say though is that the gap between several
teams will not be as big as it was last year.”
Whether Mercedes has done enough to propel Schumacher into a
fairy-tale ending to his career is uncertain – though unlikely.
Whether the season-ending Brazilian GP will be his last race is
”That’s just totally unimportant at the moment. I don’t even
think about it now,” Schumacher said. ”Now, it is all about
focussing and concentrating on understanding our car so that we
will have a positive season. I will certainly not be nailed down