Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2010

Schumacher struggles in Mercedes return

2010 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

Nico Rosberg, Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2010
Nico Rosberg was usually ahead of Michael Schumacher in 2010

Last year’s world champions seldom saw the podium in 2010 following their change of identity from Brawn to Mercedes.

The fundamental shortcomings of the W01 couldn’t be remedied by in-season updates, leaving the team fourth in the championship.

The hugely anticipated comeback of Michael Schumacher couldn’t have been more of a let-down as he struggled with the and car its tyres.

Mercedes team stats 2010

Best race result (number) 3rd (3)
Best grid position (number) 2nd (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 4 (2/2)
Laps completed (% of total) 2052 (90.88%)
Laps led (% of total) 16 (1.42%)
Championship position (2009) 4th (1st)
Championship points (2009*) 214 (430.5)
*using 2010 system

The team started the season as comfortably the fourth-fastest outfit, but as the year went on they came under increased threat from the likes of Renault and Williams.

Their saving grace in the respect was their driver line-up: the star of which was undoubtedly Nico Rosberg.

He made the most of the car in the early races and led at Shanghai having got his tyre strategy every bit as right as Jenson Button had. That netted Rosberg his second consecutive podium finish.

A third, at Silverstone, was the sum total of Mercedes’ visits to the rostrum in 2010.

His fine drive at Shanghai (one off-track excursion notwithstanding) was contrasted by a truly awful weekend for Schumacher. Four years after scoring his last win at the same circuit in similar conditions he was entire seconds off Rosberg’s pace.

A long-wheelbase version of the W01 was introduced for the following race, the Spanish Grand Prix. Schumacher enjoyed his best race of the season, holding back Jenson Button for fourth, but it proved a false dawn and there were more difficult races to come.

Mercedes’ radical split airbox was also made its first appearance at the Circuit de Catalunya. We shouldn’t gauge its usefulness on the fact that no other team copied it – given the changes to the chassis this would likely have required, it may not have been possible for many of them.

It also presented complications for integrating one of 2010’s must-have gizmos: the F-duct. Not having a shark fin meant Mercedes’ blown rear wing was a more complicated affair that they didn’t crack until the end of the season. Schumacher later revealed it was activating when it shouldn’t have been.

Integrating an exhaust-blown diffuser onto the W01 also proved problematic. Early versions of the design caused problems with melting bodywork.

In the meantime Schumacher had a year of mixed fortunes – and performances. At Monaco he was unwittingly mis-informed about the rules on overtaking at restarts and was handed a penalty that dropped him out of the points.

The re-uniting of the tactical team of Schumacher and Ross Brawn sometimes failed to live up to expectations. At Valencia the team out-smarted itself and Schumacher’s race was ruined as he got stuck at a red light in the pits. At Suzuka the team missed an opportunity to keep him from getting stuck behind his team mate by bringing him in too soon.

Inevitably there were times when Schumacher’s driving standards came in for criticism. His Canadian Grand Prix performance was condemned after run-ins with Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa. But in reality Schumacher hadn’t transgressed in any meaningful way.

This was clearly not the case in Hungary, where he repeated some of his most notorious tactics by almost causing a high-speed crash with Rubens Barrichello.

He has gone unpunished for such acts in the past – with Mika Hakkinen in 2000 and Fernando Alonso in 2003. But this time he was docked ten places on the grid for the following race – a further sign that having stewards informed by drivers is a positive step for the sport.

By the end of the year the team were making progress again. Schumacher raced to fourth in Korea but it was a story of what might have been for Rosberg.

He passed Lewis Hamilton early on in the wet race and was running fourth – behind three drivers who would all later hit trouble – when he was taken out by Mark Webber’s out-of-control Red Bull.

He ended the season with another strong showing at Yas Marina, making an early tyre change and finishing fourth.

Mercedes diverted resources to next year’s car early on in the season, leading many to predict they’ll turn the big three teams into a big four in 2011.

For the time being, Schumacher appears to be sticking with his comeback plan, which is commendable given the difficult season he’s had. But he’ll be hoping the next year’s Pirellis are a bit fit for his style than the 2010 tyres were.

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Images ?? Mercedes, GP2 Media Service, Williams/LAT, Bridgestone/Ercole Colombo, Pirelli