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. Robbie (@robbie) said on 7th March 2011, 15:18

    Imho, MS had advantages galore at Ferrari, hand over fist moreso than any other driver in the history of F1, and his numbers reflected that. As has been alluded to with some of the comments I have read here, he simply doesn’t have that perfect storm of ingredients that he enjoyed in the past, and that he proved he needed in order to succeed. I think that even if the new Merc is far more competitive than last year’s car, MS will still struggle due to tough competition from NR as well as the traditional top runners these days. All MS proved to me in the past is what kind of numbers a driver can compile when everything on his team and even within the governing body is skewed toward seeing him ‘succeed’. Take that away and I don’t expect to ever see anything from MS anywhere near what he was able to do in the past.

    • Pink Peril said on 8th March 2011, 1:07

      I agree. Schumacher’s acheivements would be far more impressive if he hadn’t had all of those helping factors. I think many of what we consider to be the upper echelon of drivers, would have acheived the same results if in a similar set up.

      • David A said on 8th March 2011, 11:49

        No other “upper echelon driver” had the team building skills MSC had, so no, they wouldn’t have.

  2. rabbit (@rabbit) said on 7th March 2011, 16:32

    My assessment of Nico is that he is just like his father . An above average driver , but he doesn’t have that ‘x-factor’ that separates the men from the boys .

  3. Mr.Zing Zang said on 7th March 2011, 16:36

    Old man will get his but minced all of the track again by Nico.

  4. DaveW said on 7th March 2011, 17:23

    No. Put Paffett in the car. Schumacher’s role now looks to be even counter-productive. Despite his technical genius, Brawn was totally lost last year in development path. The change they made to suit Schumacher on weight balance, to fit his famously “pointy” handling preference, Rosberg eventually adapted to and continued to beat Schumacher. What if they had tailored the car for Nico from the outset?

    The quick-strike theory of getting a WDC/WCC with Schumacher and a Brawn legacy chassis with the Star on the nose is by the boards now. So what is the point of still building a car and a team around a guy who will be gone in 1-2 years—when you have a brilliant young superstar in the team who is gaining enough confidence and currency that he needn’t put up with this treatment much longer?

  5. RBAlonso said on 7th March 2011, 18:38

    I genuinely think that Michael is back because he loves the competition, and the sport loves him. He has devoted literally his whole life to achieving the ultimate goal of being champion. Then, with that achieved, set out to bring the Maranello back to glory, which with help, was achieved. The rest came as a consequence.

    He should not be expected to be champion again. The pressure is completely unnecessary and the press treat the comeback as a failure due to the fact he is not the reigning champion. Let’s face it, if he said that he is slower than Nico and happy to plod around in the midfield then he would be slaughtered.

    Many champions are guilty of leaving f1 too early or too late to preserve their image. Schumacher will probably end as one of them, but does that diminish his past achievements?, I think not.

    And although I’d rather see a new talent in the cockpit, his legacy rightly gives him a chance to compete.

    Best of luck Schumi.

    • Patrickl said on 7th March 2011, 18:43

      He has made it quite clear (over and over) that his only reason to get back into F1 is to fight for the championship.

      • RBAlonso said on 7th March 2011, 18:55

        I fear that if he said that then he would be killed by the media and Mercedes would therefore publicly back Rosberg IE design the car around him. Surely, that would be to Michael’s detriment.

        Yes he is back to win GPs but everyone is demanding championship or retirement and I think that is probably too hard on him given he’s 42 and the rules have significantly changed. Let’ be honest Michael was at the peak of his power when on low fuel and fresh rubber, like in the late 90’s, where he was exceptional. Adapting to this new style may be difficult for him at 42.

        Let me know what you think mate.

        • Mauricio said on 9th March 2011, 0:00

          I agree. He was the master when F1 races were “sprints”, with two, three, sometims even four stops, meaning always low fuel and fresh tyres, more the fact hat his car simply did not break and sustained all the abuse his driving style put over the car. Now this is all gone.

  6. Robert said on 8th March 2011, 1:38

    Schumacher will continue to improve this year. I think many under-estimated the detrimental effect of his lack of experience through last years’ season. I know that sounds strange when you think of his overall experience in F1 but a lot changes in one year away from F1, let alone three.

    Schumi had to aquaint himself with the new car, tyres and tracks. It was evident in the second half of the season that he was in a better position to challenge Nico and performed quite well at tracks he was familiar with like Spa and Suzuka.

  7. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 8th March 2011, 2:24

    He is not the old man we all know but Schumacher still have the heat in him.Last a combination of different environment & Bad car set up according to him lead him that far but now he have learn things so I don’t think there should be any trouble. So will Mercedes be able to provide a good car for him? May be.

    Nico have to hope that Schumi help develope the car & he drives them fast.I think on current form Nico is better then Schumi so if Mercedes do make a good car it will be him to challenge for the WC rather then Schumacher.

  8. Mauricio said on 8th March 2011, 19:04

    I hope not. He was the Dark Age of Formula One personified.

    • David A said on 8th March 2011, 21:08

      What Dark Age? You mean the age where we didn’t go a season without a fatality? That was far worse than someone you don’t like winning lots.

  9. Robbie (@robbie) said on 9th March 2011, 14:47

    For me the MS/Ferrari era was frustrating not because MS was somebody I didn’t like winning lots, but because of HOW he won lots…permanent boot-licking non-competing teammates from race 1 of each season, designer cars, designer tires, unlimited testing, on a team that got the heads up first and foremost on rule changes plus veto power on said rules plus an extra 100 mill a year just because they were Ferrari, not to mention the bullying and unethical behaviour on the track…that is how I define the Dark Age of F1 that saw the FIA and F1 so determined to see MS end the Ferrari WDC drought that they sold out and skewed everything toward MS, their new icon post Senna…

    Bottom line for me…MS had advantages hand over fist moreso than any other driver in the history of F1, imho, and the numbers he compiled reflect that…but to me it was not an honourable way to go…

    So will the MS comeback project get back on track in 2011? I think MS has only proved what a driver can do with advantages galore, and now that he doesn’t have nearly those advantages, and he has a bonefide teammate to concern himself with, I don’t think so.

    • David-A (@david-a) said on 11th March 2011, 19:55

      Indeed, but for every rant about the “advantages” he had, there is a tendency to forget about the level of dedication required by Schumacher to effectively turn a team around that hadn’t won anything since the days of Jody Scheckter. He didn’t just drop into the best team like numerous other champions have in the past. He left Benetton after back-to-back titles and took on another challenge. MS personified and embodied the modern F1 driver by setting new standards for hard work in the gym and of course on the test track, to ensure that he would have numbers that no-one could match.

      Considering that as “The Dark Age” is just poor usage of words. That term should be reserved for the age when talented young drivers had their careers cut short because of a simple car failure.

      At the age of 41, “comeback project” is not likely to see him reach the heights he did earlier in his career, but I would still expect him to do better than in 2010.

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