Schumacher struggles in Mercedes return

2010 F1 season review

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.

Mercedes’ 2010 season in pictures

2010 F1 season review

Browse all 2010 F1 season review articles

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

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20 comments on Schumacher struggles in Mercedes return

  1. Nice write up.

    Was there any reason why they couldn’t just have put a shark fin engine cover on for the blown diffuser?

    • bosyber said on 10th December 2010, 9:39

      Well, it would undo all the effect of splitting the airbox, and then add extra drag for an air intake for the duct itself. Basically, it would alter the entire concept of the car, I suppose. And they already had enough trouble getting a handle on the car as it was, so had little appetite for more complications, I suppose.

  2. bosyber said on 10th December 2010, 9:34

    It is interesting to see, comparing the 2nd picture with the third one, that while the livery fits better with the real W01, BRP001 has a much better looking backside.

    On seeing the difference, the W01 reminded me with a quote by one of the finalists of the Dutch “So you think you can dance” on his trouble with latin style ballroom dances: “for latin, you have to clench your buttocks until they are sore, while keeping a straight face”. I wonder if the car felt like that for the drivers too much of the time, especially for Schumacher :)

  3. Jarred Walmsley said on 10th December 2010, 10:01

    I think Mercedes will be much better next year, this car was developed on a tight budget with very little time as opposed to next years car that will be developed from early this year plus Mercedes’ money so it should be a real contender next year. 2011 is also the point where Schumacher should decide to stay or leave, if he gets back into the top 5 or 6 and scores constiently with podiums and maybe even a race win or two then he should be in good stead for a 8th title in 2012.

  4. RIISE (@riise) said on 10th December 2010, 11:34

    The cars (Well Michaels anyway) were designed in Jenson’s view, which is just plain awful. It must’ve been horrible for him.

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th December 2010, 11:58

    When did a Mercedes – Rosberg, I’m assuming – qualify second?

  6. Seems to be a small mistake in the 3rd paragraph: “the and car its tyres” –> “the car and its tyres”. Thanks.

  7. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 10th December 2010, 16:06

    Schumacher came back alive in the last couple of races I hope Mercedes make a better car & he carry the momentum.

  8. macahan said on 10th December 2010, 17:15

    Keith, end of 3rd paragraph. “with the and car its tyres.”
    Should be I assume “with the car and its tyres.”

    • Dianna said on 10th December 2010, 17:39

      Michael Schumacher is shorter than Ralf – quite a lot really for brothers.Next year the Maestro will be back on form,as Ross Brawn said the data readings show he Michael is just as fast,but the 2010 car was useless anyway.

      I wish Mercedes GP would change the livery to something a bit special,and I don’t like the outfits they all wear either.The best dressed team are Red Bull,the design and fit always looked the smartest every race.

  9. George (@george) said on 10th December 2010, 18:08

    I think the old Honda team are back to their old tricks, by which I mean being slow as hell.

  10. US_Peter said on 10th December 2010, 21:04

    I hope the boost of income from Mercedes and the fact that they cut their losses fairly early on the W01 will give them a competitive car next year. I don’t think there will be nearly as big a gap between Nico and Schumi in 2011. Nico may still come out on top slightly though. We’ll see.

  11. As much as I criticised him during the middle of the 2010 season, his end of the season was pretty good and I think with the new tyres and a good car, Mercedes and Schumacher will be much better in 2011.

  12. Brawn said Michael was just as fast as nico through the faster corners but count live with him on the slower corners. We might have to accept that the current crop of drivers are just too good for the legend. Rosberg will do the same next year, any bets?

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