Will the Schumacher comeback project get back on track in 2011?

2011 F1 season preview

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2011

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2011

Michael Schumacher‘s F1 comeback did not go to plan last year. Will that change in 2011?

Hopes of challenging for wins were dashed pretty much from the off in 2010 as the W01 was not on the pace of the front-running cars.

More seriously for Schumacher, he struggled with the Bridgestone tyres. The front tyres, reduced in width for 2010, were too weak for his driving style and team mate Nico Rosberg scored the lion’s share of the team’s points.

This was an unusual situation for Schumacher who had dominated previous team mates.

Schumacher criticised the ban on testing during the season. In his Ferrari years he had done a huge amount of in-season testing, but that means of recovering lost ground is no longer available to him.

He’s also had to adjust his driving to meet tighter restrictions on dangerous moves. He was fortunate to avoid disqualification for his swerve in front of Rubens Barrichello at Hungary last year.

For 2011 the stewards have been granted new powers to deal with drivers who “[deliberately] crowd a car beyond the edge of the track or [make] any other abnormal change of direction” – a rule that sounds like it was written to keep the likes of Schumacher in check.

What will the passage of 12 months and a full year back behind the wheel have done for Schumacher’s chances?

Last year expectations of Schumacher were adjusted to meet the new conditions. But this year he has a new car and F1 has a new tyre supplier.

It may be too much to expect Schumacher at the age of 42 to return to the peak of his competitive form.

But surely this year he’s going to start looking more like the driver who won seven world championships and 91 races, and less like the driver who struggled dreadfully in the rain at Shanghai last year.

Team mate Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, could be the most underrated driver on the grid. He had some excellent drives last year, but often found himself with few cars to race against or stymied by misfortune.

Schumacher has rebuffed questions about any regrets over his comeback by pointing out he’s playing the long game in a three-year project with Mercedes.

He deserves credit for sticking it out after a tough 2010. The easy thing to do last year would have been to cut and run, rather than stick around and receive the kind of beating from Rosberg that Schumacher himself used to dish out to Barrichello.

But the results will have to start coming sooner rather than later.

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78 comments on Will the Schumacher comeback project get back on track in 2011?

  1. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 7th March 2011, 8:58

    “Team mate Nico Rosberg, meanwhile, could be the most underrated driver on the grid.” Evidenced by the fact that he only got 3 lines dedicated to him in the article… ;)

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th March 2011, 9:08

      Well, it was an article about Schumacher!

      • Dave Blanc said on 7th March 2011, 9:14

        I can’t help but think that Schumacher’s poor performance last year is making Nico look better than he is. I’d loved to be proved wrong, but when you watch Schumacher really struggling to get the power down out of slow/medium corners you have to wonder.

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th March 2011, 9:26

        Exactly, Rosberg does not (yet) warrent his own article!

        Seriously, I would expect Schu to be closer to Nico who whas better in riding the kerbs last year. Michael will have learnt where he can get the current cars by now.

        I hope both can be a bit more regular at the front. Wouldn’t it be great to see Schumacher returning to winners circle at least once more?

        • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 7th March 2011, 20:28

          Wouldn’t it be great to see Schumacher returning to winners circle at least once more?

          Absolutely! It would be great just to see someone his age proving that it can still be done in modern F1 cars…

      • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 7th March 2011, 9:54

        I know…the opportunity was too good to miss!

      • Ru_Bd said on 7th March 2011, 15:43

        Shumi is a driver which quality is beyond question and you have to take the time frame into consideration. After 3 years absence he returned into a sport which is very tough on both mind and body. so he take time to readjust himself and again there was numerous changes after his retirement so technologically he was a new driver to the grid. Now after a year [and if WO2 is even competitive] we will see the real shumi who rule the circuit some years ago……[finger crossed]

  2. dave said on 7th March 2011, 8:59

    No.

  3. No doubt that MS is talented and stuff, but that’s not Ferrari ! He had the impeccable team, the invaluable chance to test limitless, and a team-mate that didn’t worry him. Now it’s different – cars have evolved, tires are totally different – but most important of all – and I think this is the main reason – the team, Mercedes, just doesn’t have a competitive car / package. The latter statement may sound rather disappointing for his fans, considering that the 2011 car work had started very early in 2010. That’s the my prediction – give him a good car, and he will simply win – just as Nico Rosberg, Kobayashi and any other decent driver, but in 2011 he will still struggle to cope with the pace of the front crowd, read RBR, Ferrari and Mclaren. Even Renault may be faster than them.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th March 2011, 9:30

      When he went there, Ferrari had a lumpy, gas guzzling engine, an outdated chassis and a lot of memories as well as ambition.

      Todt brought in Schu, Brawn and the design team to build this great team. It took them some 3 years (96-99) to get there, but Schumacher was challenging for the WDC despite of that. After that he/they were reaping the results of hard work.

      Kudos to Schumacher for sticking with Ross and the team and helping them get somewhere close to what they built at Ferrari.

      • Solo (@solo) said on 7th March 2011, 12:39

        That’s an overreaction about the Ferrari. In 97-99 the car wasn’t bad at all, actually it was even the best in a some races. Just because Schumi didn’t win it with those doesn’t mean they were bad cars he actually needed to wait only one year.
        And even that year while the 96 Ferrari was certainly quite far from the pace of a Williams, it wasn’t any worse that the other teams. It was probably the second best car. Let’s not forget that Ferrari in 95 made major improvement and were tailing Benetton and Williams very close mixing it with them in quite a few races.

  4. PatrickL said on 7th March 2011, 9:30

    For 2011 the stewards have been granted new powers to deal with drivers who “[deliberately] crowd a car beyond the edge of the track or [make] any other abnormal change of direction”

    No they haven’t. These were already in the common regulations. They now have been copied in the F1 specific regulations. That doesn’t mean that they are new just that they are more clear.

    Remember how people claimed that drivers couldn’t get a 5 second time penalty. Indeed these were not mentioned in the F1 Sporting, but the stewards handed them out anyway.

    Also, Schumacher WAS punished for crowding Barrichello off the track. Based on exactly that rule from the common regulations.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 7th March 2011, 9:31

      So this has been highlighed by bringing it into the sporting regulations because of Schumacher to make the stewards more aware of their possibilities.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th March 2011, 9:48

      Without getting into too technical an exploration of the different rules (which would drag the focus away from the main thrust of the article) I think it’s significant that the deliberate crowding rules are now part of the sporting regulations proper and not hidden away somewhere else.

      Also, Schumacher WAS punished for crowding Barrichello off the track.

      I didn’t say he wasn’t.

      • DVC (@dvc) said on 7th March 2011, 11:47

        YOu could also argue that they are there because of Hamilton’s antics on the straight “any other abnormal change of direction” but it’s also pure speculation with nothing to back it up.

      • PatrickL said on 7th March 2011, 13:29

        You said the stewards were granted new powers. That’s simply an incorrect statement. As demonstrated by the fact that Schumacher (among others) was already punished according to those rules.

        In fact it’s not even certain if they will put more emphasis on applying those rules. I’d say the FIA just wanted to make things more clear for the fans. Prossibly even for the stewards.

        For instance, the whole Monaco safety car debacle could have been handled a lot better if the stewards had simply put Schumacher behind Alonso. Which is something they can do based on the general rules, but this is not mentioned in the F1 sporting regulations. Perhaps the (rotating) stewards overlooked this possibilty.

  5. ferranmclaren said on 7th March 2011, 10:19

    In my opinion its way unfair to to ”think that Schumacher’s poor performance last year is making Nico look better than he is” ,before the start of the season all interviewers and cameras were pointed to the allmighty schumacher even when nico and schumi were togheter nico didn’t got any attention ,so I’m no nico fan but please he is a good driver he beated schumacher the whole season.

  6. electrolite (@electrolite) said on 7th March 2011, 11:22

    Rosberg definitely had the quietest season on track out of anyone out the whole grid!

  7. Todfod (@todfod) said on 7th March 2011, 11:44

    What is the ‘Schumacher comeback project’? Is it him reaching respectable form? Or is it another WDC?

    If the plan is to make him win another WDC, I do not think the project will ever be on track. Even if he gets the fastest car next season, he has a teammate who can beat him convincingly.

    On the other hand, if the project is to make him reach respectable form, and get a couple of podiums/race wins before retiring…then it might be possible, but still an uphill battle.

    • Ollie (@olz21) said on 7th March 2011, 12:17

      What would be the point in returning if he was just going to be “respectable”. He wants to win the WDC and the longer he stays in the sport with at least a semi-competitive car without a decent championship challenge the more his reputation will be tarnished.
      I agree he will be beaten by rosberg this season and he should then bow out graciously.

      • Todfod (@todfod) said on 7th March 2011, 12:32

        I’m sure being ‘respectable’ was never his ambition when returning to the sport, but then again, he did get a very serious reality check last year. I think he would have adjusted his goals to maybe getting a few podiums, and maybe a race win or two before retiring.

        • i think that he had no intention of coming back to the sport period, until Massa’s accident. At that point, had he driven for Ferrari he would have stopped Alonso joining the team in 2010, and he would have taken every point that Alonso did, and maybe even got WDC in 2010.
          The thought rumbled round in his mind, and when Ross offered him a seat at Merc, he figured the W01 would be another BGP001, and took the chance. By then it was too late, and here we are a year later.
          A bit of a shame, but he should have taken the Ferrari seat, and if not, just stayed

        • Dianna said on 7th March 2011, 18:01

          Yes but Tod ,with the greatest respect,you of all the anti Schumacher brigade who contribute to this forum,you were literally “HAMMERING” for MSC to finish last year,you said he could never go on.
          You were therefore proved wrong along with Eddie Jordan :)LOL (you are nicer than he is I am sure:)
          So this year Todfod, Schumi will prove you wrong again.
          GO SCHUMI>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

          • Mike said on 8th March 2011, 9:32

            I vote Todfod for leader of the brigade.

          • Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 8th March 2011, 18:17

            And you got prooved wrong when you schumi “fanpeople” said Rosberg had no chance against your idol.

            How many points was it again?

            Schumi is about as much threat to Nico as Heikki was to Lewis.

          • Dave7 said on 8th March 2011, 22:39

            “Schumi is about as much threat to Nico as Heikki was to Lewis.”
            Wow somebody have too much daydream about Nico R.

  8. kowalsky said on 7th March 2011, 11:55

    britney beat the hell out of the kaiser. If he can’t turn it around this year, it’s better to give room to hulkenberg.
    Now he has the pirelli tyres, there is no room for excuses anymore.

  9. Rick DeNatale said on 7th March 2011, 12:53

    Nobody seems to have noticed that despite the relative standings in last year’s championship, Shumi continues to drive the lower numbered car on the team.

    When he asked for the ‘odd’ number last year since he was ‘used to it’ and Nico gratiously agreed, I noticed that the F1 rules/sporting regs clearly stated that within a team the numbers were to be allocated according to the driver’s positions in the previous year’s championship, which unless they’ve changed SHOULD have Nico in car #7, and Schumi in car #8.

    • OmarR-Pepper (@omarr-pepper) said on 7th March 2011, 13:21

      It’s a team’s decision. The only mandatory number is the numbers 1 and 2. The other numbers are according to Constructors championship, but inside the teams, the team decides whether respecting the drivers’ last year position or not. That is very clear in teams with both pilots new in the season (I think there aren’t 2 rookies together in a team this year)

  10. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 7th March 2011, 13:10

    I would say that both Schumacher and Rosberg are the ones to watch this year…providing this aero update for the W02 actually gives them anywhere near that 1s they were talking about. I think it was very naive of alot of people last year to consider him a contender.

    What stands out for me is Schumacher’s 2010 attitude. The guy was enjoying it, he really wasn’t too hard on himself, like he almost expected to not be in the thick of it, perhaps not as much as he was in the end though. It’s that kind of attitude which will serve him well this year, providing the guy is up to scratch.

  11. Solo (@solo) said on 7th March 2011, 13:16

    If Schumi loses to Nico this year, then he has no excuses. He will have to admit that he can’t drive better than him.
    He doesn’t need to get used to F1 anymore since he already did a year, the Pirelli tyres were made stronger at the frond just like he likes them, the car has his own input in it, everything is like he wants them to be.

    The car being fast or not is irrelevant in comparison with a teammate since they have the same car, so if Schumi can’t go head to head with Rosberg this year then he will have to stop hoping for a championship even if the car is the faster thing on the track in 2012 because he simply won’t win against Britney.

    • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 7th March 2011, 20:40

      If you look at his late season form, I think he definitely had the upper hand over Rosberg. He drove incredibly well in Japan. He outqualified Rosberg in Brazil and Abu Dhabi… I think he’d started to shake off the dust at that point, and will continue to improve in the first half of this season. Whether or not the car will be up to the challenge though is a tough question.

  12. Andy C said on 7th March 2011, 13:23

    I’m afraid I have no confidence in Merc being able to claw back so much time.

    For a company with the resources they now have at their disposal, and with finish dev on the 2010 mid way through last year, they have not exactly covered themselves in glory so far in testing.

    I do however rate Bob bell, so hopefully he is able to bring some good tech leadership and direction.

    I think with both Michael and Nico, that give them a good car and they’d be challenging. I just dont see them as having the car (again).

  13. W-K (@w-k) said on 7th March 2011, 13:43

    The short answer has to be no.

    Schumacher obviously has a lot of talent, even when compared to other F1 drivers.
    But in his glory days at Ferrari, he had various other advantages;
    He was the No.1 driver.
    Ferrari could spend as much as they wanted to.
    The tyres were virtually made for him and him alone.
    He was allowed to practice as much as he wanted, often to the detriment of his team mate.

    Whereas today;
    He might have joint billing but the future is with his team mate, who beat him last season.
    Funds are restricted.
    New tyres which in all honesty we don’t know where they are going to be. As they have not yet been used in a race or at “normal” track temperatures.
    Practice is very limited.

    Add to that the team admitting, just before we enter the last testing session, they need to find a second. If they don’t find it Schumacher can look forward to been lapped at virtually every race.

    And that’s all without mentioning his age, commitment, or the fact that the “antics” he used in the past, if repeated, will probably not be tolerated these days and will probably get much more severe penalties.

    I don’t want to sound too pessimistic but for all of Schumacher fans, it is not looking very good.

    • Odinsthor (@krss77) said on 7th March 2011, 21:46

      Yes, the future ain’t look bright for Schumi. Mercedes got no potential to give him competitive car but I still believe that even in 42 he can win a race like he did it in poor F310 in 1996 or in various not the best Benettons in previous years.

      I wonder how good could be Senna in our days behind the wheel of new cars. In my opinion his performance would not be so legendary, but It doesn’t mean that Senna is bad.

      Generally Schumacher like Senna is one of the all time greatest drivers, so his return (adventure) in Mercedes can’t harm his reputation.

      I wonder how good would be 42 years old Hamilton, Rosberg or some other young fast and furious kid.

  14. Shimks said on 7th March 2011, 14:25

    Was Bob Bell at Benetton when Schumi was there? I’m thinking synergies and all that.

  15. Daniel said on 7th March 2011, 14:29

    There are a few aspects to discuss regarding Schumacher.
    First, he’s 42 years old, and F1 is not just a matter of talent but also a matter of visual acuity and reaction speed regarding the pilot. Then, the driving style has been changed a bit in the last years. Meaning, now F1 pilots use a softer style rather than agressive. And this again, affects Schumacher which in his days was agressive. Moreover, the tyres this year wear much quicker than last year. Which means pilots need to be even more gentle with the tyres. So, these tyres won’t match at all Schumacher’s driving style. If Schumacher wants to be competitive this year, he must adapt its driving style.
    Anyway, if you look at Schumacher’s paths on the tracks in the second half of 2010 F1 season, surprise: they’re nearly perfect! (well, maybe not the last half but the last 4-5 races). What does this say? he still knows how to drive, but he was afraid of running at 100% due to tyres degradation.
    Regarding Rosberg, I do not agree that he looked better than he actually was due to Schumacher’s poor behavior in 2010. Rosberg is really a very good driver! With a car as good as RedBull, Ferrari or McLaren, he can be as good as Vettel, Alonso, Hamilton, and so on (perhaps even better).
    Now, back to Schumacher. I don’t know what he imagined when he agreed to come back in F1. Maybe he joked, maybe he missed something; anyway he was one of the best pilots F1 ever had! He fought with Mansell, Prost, Senna, Hakkinen, and others and often won! He was brave enough to left Benetton with 2 world champion titles in his pocket. The Ferrari was a poor car when he joined them. And he brought Ferrari at a very high level of competitiveness in 3 years.
    So, perhaps the media is just to rough with Schumacher; give him time then judge its performance.

    • Dianna said on 7th March 2011, 18:23

      Well said,but the truth is Schumacher will do what Schumacher likes doing best.
      “DRIVING IN F1″
      He doesn’t care a fig what anyone says about him,and this is why he has far more strength of Character than any other driver.He doesn’t brag,he keeps his own counsel,and in so doing he has the respect of many drivers and teams.I feel we are honoured to see the best driver that ever was back on track again.
      I do feel that Mercedes has let him down,and that hurts me and probably all his fans.He is such a perfectionist,that hopefully he can, this year be back to on the Podium in top place.
      Rosberg has been driving for over 6 yrs and not one a single GP.

      • Patrickl said on 7th March 2011, 18:41

        Schumacher hasn’t won a single race in the last 4 years either. Not even a podium.

      • tequilatim said on 7th March 2011, 21:12

        Well said. Also, speaking aboout bowing out gracefully, can anyone tell me when Jarno Trulli will quit F1? Seriously. Go home!

      • Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 8th March 2011, 18:34

        So what Dianna?

        Mika Haikkinen didn’t win his first GP until the end of his 7th year in F1.

        2xWDC if you didn’t know that already.

        He should of had Singapore 08 but cheating from Piquet, Flavio and Alonso stole it away from him with “crashgate”.

        Mercedes letting schumi down????

        I think you will find Mercedes are letting Nico down by even bothering to listen to that old fossel when it comes to the direction of the car’s development.

        Bout time they listen more to what Nico says since he has already shown he is a FAR better driver.

        • David A said on 8th March 2011, 21:06

          He should of had Singapore 08 but cheating from Piquet, Flavio and Alonso stole it away from him with “crashgate”.

          Should have had what? Like Alonso, he would have been NOWHERE without the safety car. It was unintentional in the case of Rosberg, but he was helped and definitely not robbed of anything.

          • Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 8th March 2011, 23:03

            Sloppy writing by me on that one.

            I’ll be an honest person about this and admit you humbled me there, that’s what happens when you type before you think.

            But within the rules of fair play Nico crossed that line first even if he did get lucky. The crash wasn’t the problem for me, Renault knowing when the crash would happen was the problem in that terrible paragraph I wrote.

        • Dave7 said on 8th March 2011, 22:53

          I think Mercedes not bothering by listening to a man(7 times world champion) rather than boy/britney(0 times world champion).

          • Pedal to the Vettel (@pedal-to-the-vettel) said on 8th March 2011, 23:29

            Yet Nico got more out of the car, almost double the points haul and didn’t make the car worse by opening his mouth if he didn’t like something.

            I think we both know who Mercedes should be backing, since it’s quite obvious schumi hasn’t got a clue how to develop a race winning car without a whole Bennetton superstar team doing it for him.

          • Dave7 said on 9th March 2011, 0:19

            Almost double the points haul…With Schumacher 3 years absent from F1 and with a car not to his liking but anyway at the end of the season he out qualified Rosberg.
            Schumacher just expressing what he think at least with his performance and what Mercedes lack of, not like Nico more into attacking the team: http://f1.madeinmotorsport.com/en/headlines/news-f1-rosberg-frustrated-as-mercedes-struggle-7608.html
            “It’s a disaster,” he told the Cologne publication Express. “The problem with the tyres is well known to the team. For weeks we have said we are coming to the front, but nothing happens – actually we go backwards.”

            Rosberg admits he is ‘angry’ with the situation. “If you’re 12th, behind both Williams – who two weeks ago were nowhere – what do you expect? I went from Williams to Mercedes because I thought I would have a winning car.”
            Who s worse by opening his mouth if he didn’t like something now?

          • Dave7 said on 9th March 2011, 0:26

            The whole benetton superstar will be i think struggling without Schumacher skill in team building and brought them close together.

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