Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2011

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

2011 F1 season previewPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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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Image ?? Mercedes