Tag Archives: Michael Schumacher

2011 mid-way driver rankings: 14 – 6

Here is part 2 of the mid-season review of all the Formula 1 drivers. This article tackles drivers ranked 14th up to 6th.

14 – Felipe Massa

Massa has found himself being beaten by all his rivals

Massa has found himself being beaten by all his rivals

Ranking in 2010: 14th

Review from 2010 ranking: “No race wins, no pole positions, no fastest laps, and no hope for 2012 if he doesn’t improve fast.”

To lag behind Sebastian Vettel in 2011 is to be expected. But to have only a quarter of the German’s points, while driving a Ferrari, is nothing short of laughable.

This year was where the Pirelli tyres would leap Massa back through the field. Nothing of the sort has occurred. Take the Spanish Grand Prix for example – Fernando Alonso tussled for the lead in the early stages, while Massa was being beaten by the Force Indias in the envious battle for 10th.

With less than half of Alonso’s points, and not even a sniff at a podium finish, Felipe has been completely dominated. He has yet to out-qualify Fernando at any point in 2011.

While it would be incredibly difficult for Ferrari to find a driver as talented as Alonso, they need a second driver who can consistently take podiums, not struggle for 6th.

13 – Paul di Resta

Di Resta has had a solid start in F1

Di Resta has had a solid start in F1

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

Ragged drives have lost him points, but nevertheless a decent start to his F1 career for the Scot.

Di Resta’s best performances so far have been in qualifying, as he has out-qualified teammate Sutil 7 times in 9 races, with over 0.6 seconds in the average gap between the two.

However, despite spending more laps in front of Sutil than vice-versa, Paul has struggled for results, with only 2 points to his name. He was on course for a large points haul in Britain, before a tyre mix-up ruined his chances.

Poorly-judged moves, particularly in Monaco and Canada, have also cost Di Resta. However, with more consistency and experience, he may be able to challenge Sutil in the driver’s championship.

12 – Jaime Alguersuari

Alguersuari has improved in recent races

Alguersuari has improved in recent races

Ranking in 2010: 19th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Three points finishes is all he could do, with a car that never really looked like pushing for points.”

Alguersuari came very close to being replaced, but several good drives have rescued his career.

3 points-scoring finishes in a row have kept Jaime his Toro Rosso race seat from going to Daniel Ricciardo. The Spaniard now lies one point ahead of Sebastien Buemi.

His qualifying results have been poor, but in recent races Alguersuari has been able to turn Q1 knockouts into points on race day.

Both of the Toro Rosso drivers’ futures still hang in the balance though, so it will be interesting to see which driver ends the season on top.

11 – Nick Heidfeld

Heidfeld has not performed up to expectations

Heidfeld has not performed up to expectations

Ranking in 2010: 16th (Only 5 races)

Review from 2010 ranking: “He will need to work fast just to get a drive for next year.”

Hailed as a consistent replacement for the injured Kubica, Heidfeld has not had the required impact at Renault so far.

The German has only just taken the lead in the championship standings battle with Vitaly Petrov. With 11 years of F1 experience, much more was expected, especially going up against a rookie driver.

Heidfeld has been soundly beaten in qualifying, being knocked out in Q1 on more than one occasion. Reliable driving as always has helped him in the races, but a lack of raw pace is holding Nick back.

10 – Michael Schumacher

Driver errors are still an issue for Schumacher

Driver errors are still an issue for Schumacher

Ranking in 2010: 12th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Schumacher’s 2011 campaign entirely hinges on the W02.”

Expected to be soundly beaten this year, Michael Schumacher has surprised some by showing much improvement from last year.

While his qualifying record against Nico Rosberg is still extremely poor, race day has allowed Schumacher to make huge progress, often held back by misfortune.

Punctures in Australia and Britain, DRS difficulties in China, as well as being swamped near the end of the Canadian GP, show that Michael’s points tally doesn’t reflect his occasionally great drives this year.

12 points is a gap that could be easily bridged with good luck. Further improvement this year would be the main aim for Schumacher.

9 – Vitaly Petrov

Petrov has improved compared to last year

Petrov has improved compared to last year

Ranking in 2010: 10th

Review from 2010 ranking: “2011 should see Petrov improve even more.”

A first-ever podium in Australia, followed by leading Heidfeld for most of this year – 2011 has not gone badly for the Russian.

Consistently out-qualifying Nick, often by huge margins, shows that Petrov has improved alongside Renault this year. However, it is still apparent that neither driver could hold a candle to Robert Kubica, who surely would be dicing it with the Red Bulls at this stage.

The hot-blown diffuser crackdown has hugely hurt the team, so expect to see Petrov and Heidfeld slip down the order. Still, it will be up to Petrov to take the majority of Renault’s points this year.

8 – Sergio Perez

Perez is arguably the rookie of the year

Perez is arguably the rookie of the year

Ranking in 2010: N/A

Review from 2010 ranking: N/A

Already a master of the 1-stop strategy, impressive pace has led many to praise Perez as rookie of the year.

With 7th place in his first ever F1 race, his talent was clearly apparent. Poor luck in Malaysia and China held him back, before another points finish in Spain.

His year was disrupted by a heavy crash in Monaco, ruling him out for 2 races. However, the smash did nothing to faze the Mexican, taking 11th on his return, then a career-best 7th in Britain.

A large tally of points could have been taken in Monaco and Canada, so Perez’s current total doesn’t reflect his excellent performances so far.

Two energetic rookies may not seem like an intelligent combo, but it has worked wonders for Sauber so far. With luck, Perez could even challenge to finish in the top 10 in the championship.

7 – Mark Webber

Webber has been dominated by his teammate

Webber has been dominated by his teammate

Ranking in 2010: 2nd

Review from 2010 ranking: “Dominant at times, disappointing at others, but still a wonderful campaign.”

While Sebastian Vettel continues to rip up tarmac at the front, Mark Webber seems to be lacking in pace, and is at risk of being overtaken by Fernando Alonso. What’s going on?

It’s not like the days of Ferrari domination, though. Back then, when Schumacher crushed his opponents to win, Barrichello would come around in 2nd place. This year, a single 2nd place is all Webber can muster so far.

In Australia, for example, Mark had absolutely no pace. His first pole position (Spain) was ruined by a bad start, relegating him to 4th after the chequered flag.

Webber has had good moments though. A spirited charge through the field in China saw him take 15 places back after a qualifying disaster.

However, his second pole saw him suffer a similar fate, slipping to 3rd during the race.

On the plus side, the Australian is yet to finish outside the top 5. Still, that doesn’t mean much when your teammate hasn’t fallen lower than 2nd at any point.

6 – Kamui Kobayashi

Kobayashi is as impressive as ever

Kobayashi is as impressive as ever

Ranking in 2010: 9th

Review from 2010 ranking: “Kobayashi has breathed fresh life into Formula 1 with his “unique” [driving] style.

Still as exciting to watch as ever, Kobayashi continues to punch well above his weight with scintillating drives.

If people were asked which car was quicker – the Mercedes or the Sauber – there would be little doubt that the Mercedes has much better pace. Because of this, seeing Kobayashi only 3 points behind 7-time world champion Schumacher will demonstrate how much Kamui is extracting from the car.

6 points finishes in a row is much better and more consistent than many drivers – only the Red Bulls, McLarens and Alonso can claim better records.

While teammate Perez is taking headlines for his special 1-stoppers, Kobayashi tends to take the 2-stop route. Compared to the rest of the grid, both Perez and Kobayashi have taken the least pit stops this year, which is a massive advantage.

Like Perez, a top 10 finish in the championship is well within Kamui’s reach.

Barcelona Day 8: Mercedes updates put Schumacher on top

Mercedes' updates put Schumacher on top

Mercedes' updates put Schumacher on top

A raft of upgrades to the Mercedes Wo2 has gone exactly according to plan for the team, with Michael Schumacher leaping to the top of the testing timesheets, after struggling all week.

Nico Rosberg, who took over from Schumacher in the afternoon, was 3rd, ending a hugely successful day for the Brackley team.

A 1.21.249 qualifying simulation was 0.3 seconds faster than Fernando Alonso in 2nd, who did more than double the laps than Schumacher, but never looked like taking the lead.

Rosberg only did 22 laps, but still managed to get within 2 tenths of Alonso.

Renault suffered more reliability problems, with Nick Heidfeld stuck in the garage in the afternoon, but still managed 4th. Rubens Barrichello seemed unaffected by the huge tyre degradation that every team has had, as the Brazilian stuck with the same set of tyres for considerable time, losing only 1 second in lap times every 12 laps.

Kamui Kobayashi and Jaime Alguersuari were 6th and 7th, with Sebastian Vettel 8th. The world champion had a very low-key test today, not setting a qualifying-style lap like previous days. He also stopped out on track with one minute to go.

A series of updates put Lotus up to 9th, with Heikki Kovalainen at the wheel. He completed 137 laps, and was only 2.1 seconds off the pace of the leaders.

Force India split their running between Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta, who were 10th and 11th respectively.

An engine change each for Pastor Maldonado and Jenson Button left both cars in the pits for most of the afternoon, with the Williams managing only 11 laps. Jerome D’Ambrosio was again miles off the pace, 6.1 seconds behind Schumacher.

Despite struggling in previous days, Michael is happy with the progress made on the car. Today he said:

"We have been developing the car step by step. The main issue we had here at the test 
was trying to find the right balance, and optimising the car performance.

It has worked pretty well, so we are looking forward to going to Australia to be in 
a reasonably strong position. I am not sure everyone has opened their cards completely 
yet but that is something to be seen in Australia.

All I can say that we have seen today here that our package seems to work reasonably 
well, but has everyone shown their true potential? That is something that we will 
find out in Australia."

Times from Barcelona Day 8:

Pos  Driver              Team                  Time       Gap     Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1.21.249           67
 2.  Fernando Alonso     Ferrari               1.21.614   0.365   141
 3.  Nico Rosberg        Mercedes              1.21.788   0.539   22
 4.  Nick Heidfeld       Renault               1.22.073   0.824   67
 5.  Rubens Barrichello  Williams-Cosworth     1.22.233   0.984   89
 6.  Kamui Kobayashi     Sauber-Ferrari        1.22.315   1.066   98
 7.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.22.675   1.426   72
 8.  Sebastian Vettel    Red Bull-Renault      1.22.933   1.684   64
 9.  Heikki Kovalainen   Lotus-Renault         1.23.437   2.188   138
10.  Paul di Resta       Force India-Mercedes  1.23.653   2.404   42
11.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1.23.921   2.672   26
12.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     1.24.108   2.859   11
13.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1.25.837   4.588   57
14.  Jerome D'Ambrosio   Virgin-Cosworth       1.27.375   6.126   46

Jerez Day 2: Schumacher heads the field

Michael Schumacher was on top in Jerez

Michael Schumacher was on top in Jerez

Michael Schumacher led the way in the second day of testing today in Jerez.

His fastest lap was made more impressive by the fact that it was not a low fuel run – he had more than 10 laps of fuel on board at the time. Felipe Massa continued his good pace in Jerez, several hundreths off the Mercedes.

Sergio Perez examines his wrecked Sauber

Sergio Perez examines his wrecked Sauber

Jenson Button got his first taste of the McLaren MP4-26, and was 3rd. He later revealed that he was forced to abort his flying laps on super-soft tyres after a red flag, and never used the KERS and adjustable rear wing systems.

Jaime Alguersuari was the first of several drivers to cause red flags, the Spaniard stopping out on track in the morning. Nevertheless., he was 5th, ahead of Mark Webber, who concentrated on heavy-fuel runs, and Adrian Sutil.

Sergio Perez crashed out after only 56 laps, and ended his day prematurely in 7th, ahead of Timo Glock. Vitaly Petrov was 9th, but struggled with rear brake locking, and spun out during the day, causing another red flag.

Pastor Maldonado was the second driver to crash, but much more seriously than Perez. Maldonado crashed his Williams at Turn 4, damaging both the front and rear of the car. His team was also forced to take apart and analyse his KERS unit, after it displayed warning signs in the morning.

Jarno Trulli was last, as his day was cut short by mechanical problems.

Sutil struggled all day, and blamed high degradation on the medium compound Pirelli tyre:

"The medium tyre we have here is different to before, and I was not so confident on
that, not so happy.

The tyre is very hard, quite a lot harder than what we had before. But it doesn't last
longer for some reason.

It's very slow in the first few laps, then the degradation starts very early still.
Even after five to six laps the degradation starts again, and I was expecting much
more.

[Pirelli] probably go a different way [to Bridgestone], which is good for the sport.
It's a big challenge to drive on the limit with these tyres.

They are very oversteery, very low grip, so it is very easy to make mistakes. The
difference you have between the compounds is very big, but in general I like them."

Times from Jerez Day 2:

Pos  Driver              Car                   Time       Gap       Laps
 1.  Michael Schumacher  Mercedes              1.20.352             112
 2.  Felipe Massa        Ferrari               1.20.413   0.061     116
 3.  Jenson Button       McLaren-Mercedes      1.21.009   0.657     69
 4.  Jaime Alguersuari   Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1.21.214   0.862     72
 5.  Mark Webber         Red Bull-Renault      1.21.613   1.261     113
 6.  Adrian Sutil        Force India-Mercedes  1.21.780   1.428     73
 7.  Sergio Perez        Sauber-Ferrari        1.21.857   1.505     56
 8.  Timo Glock          Virgin-Cosworth       1.22.208   1.856     57
 9.  Vitaly Petrov       Renault               1.22.493   2.141     65
10.  Pastor Maldonado    Williams-Cosworth     1.22.591   2.239     38
11.  Jarno Trulli        Lotus-Renault         1.23.216   2.864     40

 

2010 was a year of practice for Schumacher – Lauda

3-time champion Lauda still trusts Schumacher to leap back to the top

3-time champion Lauda still trusts Schumacher to leap back to the top

The major German news agency SID conducted a survey and surprisingly, more than 70 per cent of those surveyed do not believe Michael Schumacher will win an eighth world title in 2011.

The most successful driver in F1 history had a difficult return to the sport in 2010 after 3 years of retirement, finishing ninth in the championship and 70 points behind his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Triple world champion Niki Lauda is certainly one who understands Schumacher’s troubles. The Austrian had won 2 titles before he retired in 1979, then returned after a 3-year absence. However, although he initially struggled, he won another championship in 1984. He told Spain’s El Pais newspaper:

"In my second phase in F1, the testing was not limited so I had plenty of 
mileage to prepare.

Michael has had trouble adjusting. Furthermore, he has been against a lot 
of young guys eager to prove they can beat him, including Rosberg who is 
really fast.

2010 was a year of practice for Schumacher. At first I thought he would 
not take more than four races to be back, and winning races has never been 
easy, but now it is harder than ever before.

Anyway, if anyone can do what he has to do, it's him."

Over to you: Do you think Schumacher can bounce back from his 2010 struggles?

Disgraceful Schumacher deserves ban after lethal move

I have stated countless times that Michael Schumacher’s “comeback” has consisted of nothing but cheap defensive shots, and driving his opponents into the wall/gravel/grandstand. However, today’s performance takes the cake, as he shoves, into a concrete wall at 300km/h, a former team-mate which held the door open for him for 5 years.

Two different views from the Schumacher move that has sparked huge controversy already

Two different views from the Schumacher move that has sparked huge controversy already

The stewards have since served Schumacher a 10-place grid penalty for the next race in Belgium, butthis is nowhere near enough. Barrichello was inches away from a crash that could have easily been fatal, and it would have been completely Michael’s fault. He tried to justify his move by saying afterwards: “I think I left him too much room because he passed.” This single-handedly explains why I think that he should just walk away today from F1, as he has become nothing more than a pathetically arrogant, and dangerous, disgrace to the sport.

There has always been a group of supporters that have hated Schumacher for his illicit moves, such as taking out Damon Hill in Adelade to win the title in 1994, the failed championship-stealing move on Villeneuve in 1997, shoving Frentzen into the gravel in Canada 1998… do I even need to go on?

Even worse, he seems to practically endorse his moves. He stated afterwards that: “I think I left him too much room because he passed.” Clearly he has forgotten one of the most important rules in motorsport, and it’s called sportsmanship. The worst thing is, a similar accident happened today in Superleague Formula, where Chris van der Drift’s car split in half after a huge crash (although it is designed to do so):

As you heard in that video, it was a communications error that caused that crash, but it is a clear sign of what could have happened today. The main difference in this situaion was that there was no gap between the car and the wall, which meant that, in the event of a crash, Barrichello’s car would have speared sideways into Schumacher’s car (not 100% a bad thing) and ending in the cars smashing into the wall at Turn 1, with no guarantee that they would be the right way up.

Our last huge crash was only in Valencia, and it is far too soon to see how close the drivers can cheat injury again. In my view, rather than a penalty, Schumacher should just admit he has contributed absolutely nothing useful to Formula 1 this year, and is putting all of his fellow drivers at risk, and hang up his helmet for good. My favourite underdog Nick Heidfeld will be waiting to take his seat.

Here is the video again, if you didn’t see it live:

FIA to change safety car rules

Because of a lack of clarity on safety car rules, Michael Schumacher lost his points-scoring position

Because of a lack of clarity on safety car rules, Michael Schumacher lost his points-scoring position

The FIA has admitted a “lack of clarity” regarding safety car rules, and has promised to change the regulations accordingly. Following Michael Schumacher’s penalty for overtaking on the last lap as the safety car had already pitted, much critisism has been aimed at the rules for not being clear enough.

However, since then, the FIA have issued a statement, saying that the rules were not clear enough, and would consider changes at the next World Motor Sport Council meeting on June 23rd. They said:

The problems identified during the final lap of the Monaco Grand 
Prix, counting for the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship, 
showed a lack of clarity in the application of the rule prohibiting 
overtaking behind the Safety Car.

Adjustments to the regulations are necessary to clarify the procedure 
that cars must meet when the last lap is controlled by the Safety Car 
whilst also ensuring that the signaling for teams and drivers is made 
more clear.

These adjustments will help to avoid the problem which occurred during 
the Monaco Grand Prix from happening in the future.

The Formula One Commission, upon a proposal of the F1 Sporting Working 
Group will submit an amendment to the Sporting Regulations to address 
this issue. These amendments will be considered by the World Motor Sport 
Council at its next meeting in Geneva on June 23.

To be honest, I’m not sure what rule they can actually change. In the regulations, it is clearly stated that overtaking is not permitted when the safety car pits at the end of the race. Having said that, providing clarity on the issue works just as well.

Regarding the initial penalty, opinion is split. In the poll I put up yesterday, 50% believed that the penalty was wrong as it was under racing conditons, 21% wanted a smaller punishment, and 29% thought the penalty was fair.

Mercedes to ditch Schumacher appeal

Schumacher passes Alonso on the final corner, because of confusion over racing and safety car conditions

Schumacher passes Alonso on the final corner, because of confusion over racing and safety car conditions

Mercedes GP have announced that they are not to appeal the decicion to hand Michael Schumacher a penalty at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix. This means that the provisional result, with Sebastien Buemi now entering the points, will now stand.

However, the team have still called Schumacher’s penalty “disproportionate”, and that they are to discuss the terms of Article 40.13 with the FIA, the rule which was used to penalise Schumacher after the incident. They also announced their approval of having a former F1 driver on the stewards panel. Damon Hill, who some criticised for being a former rival of Schumacher, and therefore maybe wouldn’t have been fair, received hate mail after their punishment was handed out.

Mercedes’ statement is as follows:

On the final lap of the 2010 Monaco Grand Prix, Mercedes instructed
our drivers, Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, to race from
safety car line one until the finish line as permitted under
articles 40.7 and 40.11.

Mercedes were fully aware of article 40.13 which states that no
overtaking is permitted if the race finishes under safety car
conditions. However we believed that the combination of the race
control messages ‘Safety Car in this lap’ and ‘Track Clear’ and the
green flags and lights shown by the marshals after safety car line
one indicated that the race was not finishing under the safety car
and all drivers were free to race.

This opinion appears to have been shared by the majority of the
teams with cars in the top ten positions who also gave their drivers
instructions to race to the finish line.

It was clear from our discussions with the stewards after the race
that they understood the reasons for our interpretation and
acknowledged that this was a new and previously untested situation
but ultimately disagreed with our interpretation.

Mercedes would like to emphasise that we fully support the inclusion
of past drivers on the stewards panel and are completely satisfied
that the Monaco Grand Prix stewards acted professionally,
impartially and properly in this matter.

The FIA has agreed to include article 40.13 on the agenda of the next
Sporting Working Group for discussion and to consider the scale of
post race penalties. We believe that the 20 second penalty imposed
on Michael to be disproportionate in the circumstances.

Whilst we cannot be happy with the outcome, we are pleased that the
FIA has recognised the reasons for our interpretation. Therefore in
the best interests of the sport, Mercedes will not be submitting an
appeal.

Seeing as how many appeals against these sort of penalties fail, I’m not surprised to see Mercedes give up. Still though, I’m not sure if they were in the right or not.

We have come to the conclusion that when the safety car pits on the final lap, the cars should go across the finish line with no overtaking. But, there were green flags being waved, and Fernando Alonso did seem to be quite aggressive exiting La Rascasse, whch showed that he was still racing (even if it was what cost him the place). Force India, Renault and Red Bull all instructed their cars to race until the finish line as well, so there’s still plenty of fuel for debate here.

Here is the incident again:

Schumacher given 20-second penalty, Mercedes to appeal

Michael Schumacher has been handed a 20-second penalty for his opportunistic move on Fernando Alonso at the end of the Monaco Grand Prix. On the last corner, when the safety car pitted, Schumacher dived down the inside of Fernando Alonso, believing that racing conditions had resumed.

However, the stewards brought Article 40.13 of the Sporting Regulations into the equation:

If the race ends whilst the safety car is deployed it will enter the
pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the
chequered flag as normal without overtaking.

However, this year, the FIA opted to bring in the “safety car line”. This is a white line that, if you pass it when the safety car pits, you may then drive under racing conditions, which means overtaking is allowed. When Schumacher dived past Alonso, he had already passed the safety car line, which meant that, under the specific rule of the safety car line, the move was legal. In case you’re looking for the safety car line in the replay I have provided, it it below the green electronic flag on the left of the screen.

But, Article 40.13 won the argument, and Damon Hill, the former F1 driver of the stewards in Monaco this weekend (this year, there is 1 F1 driver in the stewards panel every race), decided that a penalty was necessary, and handed Schumacher a 20-second penalty.

This means that Michael drops out of the points to 12th place. Fernando Alonso is elevated to 6th place, and Sebastien Buemi now enters the points. Mercedes have announced their intention to appeal, and a date will be set soon.

Personally, I think it was a stupid decicion. The safety car line was put in this year for a reason, and Schumacher made excellent use of it. It was very sneaky, but an inspired move at the end of a boring second half of the race. Fernando, as you can see in the replay, was still pushing hard, which caused the mistake, which meant that he beleived he was racing under normal conditions as well.

My main argument for this is that Michael only passed Fernando at the start of the Anthon Noghes corner, which is well beyond the safety car line.

What do you think? Is it the fault of Michael to try and bend the rules too much, or was it just very clever and within the regulations? I’ll put a poll up in a few minutes. For the while, have a look at the replay and have a look for yourself (it’s Dailymotion because there’s no chance of it being taken down :) )


Chinese GP Thursday press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

Sebastien Buemi, Adrian Sutil, Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher at the Chinese GP press conference

At today’s press conference, we had Adrian Sutil, Michael Schumacher, Sebastien Buemi, and Lewis Hamilton. Here is the full transcript:

Q: Adrian, what was it like having your friend Lewis breathing down your neck in the last race for 20 laps or so?
Adrian Sutil:
It was not an easy race. At the beginning it all went right and we had a good pace, so I was quite comfortable with my position and then in the last 20 laps Lewis made a lot of pressure. He arrived really, really fast and he was on the soft tyre. I just tried to do no mistakes and keep my line and concentrate to the end of the race. I knew it was going to be quite a long race and long laps for me with him pressing behind. But in the last couple of laps I had the feeling his tyres were going off a little bit, so I could breathe a little bit more and I had a little gap, so it was still under control, but I know him and he fights until the end.

Q: I guess it does confirm that the team has taken quite a step forward this year?
AS:
Yes, we are doing really well I think. I am very happy that we improved so much over the winter. I had a good feeling over the winter. We did everything very efficiently and the work is still going on. That is not only the first three races where we were doing great. Of course we have our goals this season and we want to do even better. It is all set up well and we can improve this position in the next races.

Q: What about the contribution of Paul di Resta? He comes in and drives on the Friday morning, is that a distraction for you or is that a good thing?
AS:
Well, I want to be in the car always of course even on Friday morning but we agreed to it during the winter. He is our test and reserve driver and he has his chance on the Friday morning swapping the car. Once in mine, once in Tonio’s (Liuzzi). I think in general it is a good thing for young drivers coming into Formula One to get a chance to test a little bit. Now with the testing ban they don’t have any driving experience. When there is a problem with the race driver they need to go in the car and they are not prepared, so this is a way to do it better to give them a chance to settle well into Formula One.

Q: Sebastien, Toro Rosso this year have had to design their own car. Tell us about the advantages and disadvantages of that?
Sebastien Buemi:
For sure it is not an easy thing to set up a team which was not building its own car last year. It has been big work during the winter and we are getting up to speed with the updates in the wind tunnel, so we will see the result in the middle of the season. But we have a good car to fight in the middle of the pack and score points if we do a good race, so it is not too bad.

Q: Difficult start to the season, but is it getting better now?
SB:
It was not the start of the season I was expecting but sometimes difficult things happen. It has been the case this year, so we will see what we can achieve here. We saw a good improvement in Malaysia and we seem to be quite a lot closer to Force India and Williams and I think it doesn’t look bad for finishing near the points or in the points. That will be our objective this weekend.

Q: How difficult is it for you that you have had a whole season’s experience but you don’t have a more experienced driver to help with sorting out the car? Is that a problem for you?
SB:
To be honest in Formula One I have never had a really experienced driver with me, so I don’t know how it is to work with someone with a lot of experience. I do my best to improve the car and the team and now it is getting a lot better with experience and knowing all the circuits and knowing how the race weekend goes. I think we can achieve a good set-up and a good car during the practice, so I will take it as it comes and try to do my best.

Q: So not really a problem?
SB:
I don’t think so.

Q: Lewis, I think you have been out and about in Shanghai today. You were at the Expo I believe?
Lewis Hamilton:
Yeah, this morning before we went to the track we stopped by the Expo and I got to see a little bit of it and I just have a small tour around the UK’s Expo. It was quite a cool and special building they have created there. But it was just a quick stop and I did a bit of a press conference and that was it.

Q: We are three races in to the so-called rivalry between you and Jenson Button. How is it going?
LH:
We are doing well. We are scoring lots of points for the team. He is a doing a fantastic job and we are getting on really well. He brings nothing but positiveness to the team and I think he is a very well balanced and well-rounded guy. We get on really well and it is working well for us.

Q: I guess the real worry if anything is Red Bull’s pace. How much of a worry is that? And the team was taking steps and making new technical decisions to counter that, but they have had to abandon that.
LH:
We have not had to abandon much. There are so many different things in the pipeline and one of those was to go in a similar direction as perhaps some other teams have done. But it is clear everyone cannot do that now. I don’t know how that affects others but it doesn’t really affect us. We still have updates that we are working on and should be coming in the course of the next few weeks or months. I am looking forward to seeing the updates come but I know the guys back at the factory are flat out. We try to make as many improvements as we can. Last weekend we seemed to be very competitive with them through practice but in the race the Red Bulls pace was a little bit… I don’t know if they were pushing that much, but we have just got to keep our eye on the ball and keep pushing.

Q: Michael, do you still feel Mercedes is a little bit behind? Where do you feel it is?
Michael Schumacher:
I guess you have Red Bull and Ferrari being a little bit up front and then probably it is right to say that McLaren is a little bit up front on us although the last race could not really show it. We are probably still in fourth position at the moment.

Q: How is the development coming along from your point of view?
MS:
As you expect in Formula One every kind of race you being new things and it goes step by step. I am quite happy with the general development trend. Naturally as probably most of the teams we will have a little bit bigger upgrade in Barcelona due to time availability and so on, so we are all look forward to that.

Q: You’ve now been back for three races. Have you found things very different since you left F1 three years ago?
MS:
Well, the number of questions and style of questions and all this sort of thing is pretty much the same. Driving the car, in a way, as well. It’s natural that there are some characteristic changes but at the end of the day, every year, you get a new car, and you just adapt and work the car around your needs. Yes, it has taken a little bit of time after being out for three years, it does need a little bit more time, especially with less winter testing available. But I’m feeling pretty good, I have to say. It’s worked out almost quicker than I expected it to do and I feel very comfortable in the car now and I look forward to when things get to the end to show a little bit better.

Q: Do you think a younger Michael Schumacher might have been more frustrated with the time it’s taken to get back right to the very top? You seem more relaxed…
MS:
It depends what age you’re talking about, because when I came into Formula One I would have obviously been very happy with the results we’ve had, because you haven’t had a ranking or a position. If you talk about after winning certain championships, then naturally you would have been a little bit less happy, but with having all this kind of experience, coming back after this break, I feel more than happy with what’s going on. One of the big and interesting things is working with the team to develop the car and being involved in this kind of process. That is so much of the fun. The driving is fun as well but you get used to that pretty quickly, but working on the details, that’s what makes it up for me.

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

Q: (Paolo Ianieri – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Lewis, do you think that the F-duct is going to give you the big advantage that many of your rivals suspect or do you see Red Bull as the main team to beat you?
LH:
I still see Red Bull and Ferrari as the teams to beat here. You don’t know what Mercedes have brought either, so I think it’s the same as every race.

Q: (Livio Oricchio – O Estado de Sao Paulo) To all drivers, with these low temperatures currently do you expect problems heating the tyres, especially the hard ones?
AS:
For sure, temperatures as low as six degrees which is what we have now is going to be a problem, especially on the hard tyre. We will have to see on Friday, tomorrow, how it looks but I know there will definitely be some warm-up problems. I’m not so concerned that they will never work but they will just take a long time to come in, probably around five or six laps until you get them to a certain speed. So we have to see, we have to adapt the set-up work a little bit to it, but we’re also expecting slightly better temperatures for Saturday and Sunday.
MS: It’s going to warm up over the weekend, so less of an issue.

Q: (Marco Degl’Innocenti – La Gazzetta dello Sport) Michael, are you not a little disappointed because of this wave of criticism which has been rising up over the last few days, because a lot of people are impatient that you don’t win?
MS:
You see, I’ve been around long enough to know what I call the wave of emotion. During the winter everybody was every emotional and very supportive and positive and once you’re up on this edge of the wave, there’s a natural happening that you start to fall over the edge and whether you are the reason for it, or whether it’s just a natural happening, it’s not always important and because the results have not been as great as some people have expected and even myself, yes, I would have loved to have better results but then the competition is very high and in this respect it’s a natural happening to not have the same positive feedback in the media. But you know, I know exactly what I’ve been doing, I know what’s been going on and I’ve no reason from my side to be disappointed, quite honestly. I still feel very happy. Whether people like it or not is their own choice.

Q: (Ottavio Daviddi – Tuttosport) Michael, considering the situation that you explained very well, yesterday Fernando said that in his opinion you are still in the fight for the championship this year. Do you agree with him?
MS:
Indeed, yes, I do, because if you take the points system, and you have seen that Fernando had a retirement in Malaysia for whatever reason, it can happen to all of us. I had my retirement in Malaysia, so at one point in the season, most likely, that will hit the guys who are fighting for the championship. If we have a quick enough development pace, there’s no reason why we can’t fight for the championship, it’s far too early and there’s such a long season ahead. Development is so important, and we all know how fast the rate of development is. I’m pretty sure we have good potential to develop this car, so it’s far from feeling and thinking that this season is over, for Nico (Rosberg) and even for myself.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) A general question to Lewis and perhaps Michael as well. It’s quite tight at the top of the drivers’ standings after three races. Are you expecting it to remain such a tight battle between maybe six or eight drivers as we continue, or do you expect, when we get to Europe, when the development race kicks in in earnest, that we will see people leaping ahead? Sebastian (Vettel) could have won all three races so far.
LH:
Yeah, you’re right, Sebastian could be quite a bit ahead at the moment, but I think at the moment it is very close, and I’m hoping that it stays like that for some time but undoubtedly, at some stage during the season, whether or not Red Bull continue to have not such great reliability, as Michael was saying, anything can happen and it can happen to any of us. We just have to try and stay as consistent as possible. You cannot afford too many DNFs, so I think that is probably what every team is trying to maintain, try and stay as consistent as possible.
MS: I think I answered that before.

Q: Michael, I know this is the second time you have been in Shanghai over the last four years; do you have any special feelings about this city and also for your professions here?
MS:
Well, it’s been a while that I have not been here, but it’s quite impressive to see the development. I stayed in town for a couple of nights and I’ve been around a little bit. It’s impressive to see this. It’s always been one of the Grands Prix you enjoy coming to because the enthusiasm of the fans is pretty extreme, so the reception I got when I’ve arrived at the airport or when I arrived at the hotel has been interesting, so naturally we look forward to hopefully performing well for the fans that we have here.

Q: (Joris Fioriti – AFP) Sebastian, you seemed to be well ahead of your team-mate most of last year and this season too, but the last race was somehow different. Do you feel threatened by Jaime Alguersuari now?
SB:
I think that the last race has been a bit difficult for me. I had a small contact on the first lap with (Kamui) Kobayashi and it broke my front wing, so I did most of the race with a broken front wing and when we changed it, I did the third fastest lap in the race, so it’s difficult to compare, but for sure he has done a good race, he finished in the points, so there’s nothing to say. If you look at the qualifying and everything, it still seems to look good for me, so I just hope for a good race weekend when I can show my speed up to the end, without any problems.

Q: (Sarah Holt – BBC Sport) Michael, this was the scene of your last Formula One victory before you retired in 2006. Could you talk about the last time you experienced that winning feeling, feeling what that race was like for you, memories of that race and perhaps how you could carry that forward into a lovely result on Sunday?
MS:
I’m not a person who looks too much into the past, quite honestly, so forgive me if that’s not in myself. I would rather look forward and have slightly better races than I have in the past two races, which were a bit out of my control. But the track and car and situation should be good enough to have a good race.
The track is a little bit particular, because there are quite a few corners that, depending on whether you have a good balance in the car, are good fun. If your car struggles in terms of balance, you get really angry because in turn one or 13, it’s going to be a mess if you don’t have a good balance and it’s going to be great fun if things work out. It changes your emotion quite a lot.

Q: (Nick Mulvenny – Reuters) Lewis, you obviously had a great win in 2008, but in 2007 you remember what happened then, when you came off the track. Do you think that you’ve matured as a driver, that that sort of situation wouldn’t happen today? That you would insist that you should pit rather than stay out on bald tyres?
LH:
Well, I know where the gravel trap is now, so I don’t think I would be in that position again. Of course, having the experience and being a few years down the line, I think I’m able to understand and make calls for myself, but I don’t think that we as a team would put ourselves in that position again. I’m confident that we won’t be there again.

Can Schumacher survive in the new Formula 1?

Despite being much less praised than his team-mate, Nico Rosberg has out-performed Michael Schumacher in all areas so far

Despite being much less praised than his team-mate, Nico Rosberg has out-performed Michael Schumacher in all areas so far

So far in the three races of the 2010 Formula 1 season, only two drivers have been out-qualified 3-0 by their team-mates. One of these is Vitaly Petrov, the former GP2 driver from Russia, who has a well-established team-mate in the form of Robert Kubica. He has been doing decently in the races so far, so there isn’t a problem here yet. And the other is 7-time world champion Michael Schumacher.

In Bahrain, Australia and Malaysia, Nico Rosberg, who hasn’t even won a single race yet, has beaten him in qualigying. In Bahrain, Nico was fourth while Michael was three places back in seventh. In the race, Rosberg struggled to keep up with the frontrunners, while Schumacher couldn’t make much progress. They ended up 5th and 6th. Seeing as how it was his first race back, there wasn’t much worry. But, in Australia, Nico was again a tenth quicker than Michael. In the race, Schumacher was hit at the first corner, and fell to the back. While Fernando Alonso was able to fight back through the field, the German struggled, getting stuck behind Jaime Alguersuari for over 30 laps, which completely ruined his race.

In Malaysian qualifying, with the torrential conditions, the rainmaster was expected to shine. But, he burned out his tyres too quickly in Q3, and ended up 8th, only 0.05 seconds ahead of rookie Kamui Kobayashi, in a much more uncompetitive car. Meanwhile, Rosberg did well to qualify on the front row, and got a podium in the race. Schumacher never got a chance here, as a wheel nut failure caused him to retire early on.

I am aware it has only been three races, and bad luck has played a part, especially in Malaysia. But, the simple fact is that Nico Rosberg has 35 points to Schumacher’s 9. Times have changed since Michael Schumacher was the unbeatable force in Formula 1, taking multiple championships in a dominating car. Now, the rookies aren’t scared of the 7-time world championship, as shown when Jaime Alguersuari pushed him onto the grass. The last time that happened was in 2003, again in Australia, with Kimi Raikkonen. Back then, it was a sign that the young drivers were fighting back, and it came true with a fantastic season. This time, it seems to be a sign that the Formula 1 world has moved on from Schumacher.

It is too early to make conclusions about Schumacher’s comeback just yet. But, I can’t help but worry that he will never be able to return to the top like he used to. Being in an uncompetitive car must be hugely demotivating, but this is Michael Schumacher we’re talking about. Hopefully, by the end of the year, a win could be a possibility for him and Rosberg.

But, this all hinges on whether Ross Brawn and Mercedes can pull themselves together, and give the German duo a competitive car. What do you think will happen?

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