How Schumacher got stuck behind Rosberg (Japanese Grand Prix analysis)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Suzuka, 2010

Mercedes may have missed an opportunity to prevent Michael Schumacher getting stuck behind Nico Rosberg during the Japanese Grand Prix.

Schumacher spent 23 laps stuck behind his team mate. Without the delay he might have been able to capitalise on Lewis Hamilton’s later problems to take fifth place.

Lap 1

Lap 1 position change
Lap 1 position change

There were a couple of fast-starters at Suzuka but most of them ended up climbing out of wrecked cars on the first lap.

Robert Kubica made a much better start than the Red Bull drivers did, but only had time to get by Mark Webber before swinging into turn one.

Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, was crowded out and lost three places.

Pit stops

Pit stops
Pit stops

Qualifying and starting the race on the hard tyres was a gamble that failed for Jenson Button

Part of the problem was it limited his qualifying position to fifth. Though, as he admitted afterwards, if he’d only fuelled for one lap he might have started higher (assuming a 0.08s penalty per lap of fuel, third place was definitely a possibility).

In the end, only Lewis Hamilton’s gearbox problem meant Button finished in a better position than he started.

Race progress

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On lap 22 Michael Schumacher was in sixth place. Behind him Kobayashi and Buemi were, like him, yet to pit and team mate Rosberg, who had pitted, was 18.3 seconds behind.

This was not enough of a gap for Schumacher to be able to pit and stay ahead of Rosberg. But the gap was growing as Schumacher consistent lapped in the mid-to-high 1’37s, Rosberg around half a second slower (see laptimes here).

Looking at how Rosberg’s times progressed, Schumacher might only have need to stay out for a lap or two more to gain an advantage over his team mate. So why was he brought in?

It’s not clear. I have asked Mercedes for an explanation and will post it if I receive one.

There was nothing wrong with his pit stop – only Jenson Button got in and out of the pits quicker during the race.

The best explanation I can think of is a concern on the pit wall that Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello, who had pitted and were not far behind Rosberg, might be able to get close enough to Schumacher. But they would have had to pass Rosberg – not an easy thing to do.

Alternatively, they might have been pre-empting pit stops by the leading cars which might have held Schumacher up. But this too is not entirely convincing.

Then there are more cynical explanations. Rosberg went into the race six points behind Felipe Massa in the drivers’ standings and would have passed him had he finished in the sixth place he held before his wheel failed. How much do Mercedes want to get one of their cars ahead of a Ferrari in the drivers’ championship?

Lap chart

Lap chart
Lap chart

Unlike Button, starting on hard tyres paid off for Kamui Kobayashi. He made it work with a series of passes before and after his pit stop.

The clutch of early retirements, plus later stoppages for Adrian Sutil and Rosberg, allowed Heikki Kovalainen to give Lotus their best finishing result this year with 12th.

2010 Japanese Grand Prix

Browse all 2010 Japanese Grand Prix articles

67 comments on “How Schumacher got stuck behind Rosberg (Japanese Grand Prix analysis)”

  1. I really liked the way Schumacher drove today, as he was fighting for some position, especially through the first sector where there are many high speed turn he was carving his way past the slower cars just like the old days.I have to say this has been his best performance of the season after Spain GP.Another thing that was positive this race that Mercedes allowed both their driver to fight & they did well,& OLD & the NEW respected each other well.Hope in 2011 we see battle for the front of the grid between them.

    1. If everything goes well Schumi would be so far ahead of Rosberg, the only way Nico sees him would be when he is being lapped by Schumi. :D I know wishful thinking.

  2. Schumi’s run felt uninspired if you ask me. He only managed to get past his teammate once he had crashed out.

    Koby on the other hand… every race, he continues to make more and more of a fan of me.

    1. Schumi passed Barichello in a place where overtaking is almost impossible. I guess you didn’t watched the first laps of the race.

      1. in the tv they dont show replay, how shumi get pass rubens, it was great!!!!

  3. Now Schumi has now finally opened his mouth! He says:

    “The car worked great this time,” said the 41-year-old after a good weekend at Suzuka.”Unfortunately, I cannot say it has been that way at all the races,” he reportedly told German television RTL.

    “There have often been problems, especially on my car, in terms of the consistency, that were not always noticed from the outside.

    “You only saw that I was slower.

    “Both cars have not always been the same,” insisted Schumacher, who just before Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix complained that the F-duct on his car was not working properly at Suzuka.

    Mercedes’ Norbert Haug responded to Bild newspaper: “I cannot disagree with Michael. As far as the car is concerned, he is right.”

    Something certainly going on inside the Merc team!

  4. Finally a good race by Schumacher. More to come next year! :)

  5. Komalan Domenighetti
    11th October 2010, 13:16

    This is the point I was trying to make for some months now… Schumacher’s race engineer is useless and I will say it again, he should change race engineer ASAP, because as far as I’m concerned this engineer has been a key cause in Schumacher’s poor race STRATEGIES.
    Let’s face, if Schu had stayed when Rosberg pitted, he would of stayed ahead..and who knows what he would have done at the point. Brawn needs to be Schu’s engineer again, because the one he has at the moment is only favouring Rosberg……….

  6. Nico didn’t change tire after lap2.
    Which means Schumacher had big advantage,he got new tire.
    But he coudn’t overtake Nico.This shows you how Schumacher suck! It wasn’t Monaco!It was Suzuka!
    Look @ how Kobayashi overtakes other!
    Schumacher is 7 times champion,but he couldn’t overtakes old tires teammate very long time.New guy overtakes many whith in 10 laps.

    I think Schumacher is fake!

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