Top ten: Schumacher comeback moments

2012 F1 season review

Michael Schumacher’s Formula One comeback did not achieve the success he and Mercedes were hoping for. But nor was it a complete disaster. Guest writer @Greg-Morland picks ten of the highlights.

Schumacher swept all before him at Ferrari in the first half of the last decade. Yet his comeback with Mercedes in 2010 mostly saw him scrapping for minor points finishes. He seldom looked like adding to his tally of 91 Grand Prix victories, never mind winning another world title.

But there were races to cherish and even the occasional glimpse of the greatness we remember from the first part of his career. Here’s are ten the best moments from Schumacher’s comeback.

2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

Schumacher?s drive to sixth on his comeback in the soporific 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix seemed underwhelming at the time. Given that he was driving for Mercedes, which as Brawn had won both titles the previous year, hopes had been high that he could challenge for victories right from the off.

But with the benefit of hindsight, it seems Schumacher had in fact done rather well, especially given how much the cars had changed since his “retirement” in 2006.

Not only did he end his first race in over three years within four seconds of team mate Nico Rosberg, he finished ahead of Jenson Button and Mark Webber, both of which were driving significantly quicker cars.

2010 Spanish Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Barcelona, 2010After the first four races of Schumacher’s return it was clear he was not going to be in a position to challenge for the world championship. Regardless of whether his raw ability had deteriorated during his hiatus, the W01 chassis had proved to be no match for its title-winning predecessor.

But Schumacher certainly got the most out of it at the Spanish Grand Prix, an event he had previously won a record six times. After out-qualifying Rosberg for the first time, Schumacher consolidated his sixth position on the opening lap then made opportunistic overtake on Jenson Button as the McLaren driver exited the pits .

Schumacher then spent the remaining 49 laps of the race fending off Button for fifth place with some textbook defensive driving – no mean feat even in the pre-DRS era. Lewis Hamilton’s late retirement gifted him fourth place, a result he was only to better once over the remainder of his stint at Mercedes.

2010 Turkish Grand Prix

Schumacher qualified a strong fifth, a performance he would not better until this year. However he spun into the gravel at Turn eight on his final lap in Q3, and was fortunate that the resulting yellow flags prevented his rivals from beating him.

On race day, Schumacher was comfortably ‘best of the rest’ behind the dominant Red Bulls and McLarens. He gained an extra place after the infamous collision between Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber and eventually came home fourth for the second time in three races.

2011 Canadian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Montreal, 2011By mid-2011, the initial enthusiasm surrounding Schumacher?s return had largely given way to indifference after a series of disappointing results. The 91-times race winner had garnered just three top six finishes in the twelve months since Turkey 2010, while Rosberg was a fixture among the leading points-scorers.

It was not until the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix that the Schumacher of old returned. In a chaotic race, he scythed through the field as the track began to dry towards the end, culminating in an opportunistic double pass on Felipe Massa and Kamui Kobayashi for second place.

However, a late safety car deployment left Mark Webber and Jenson Button on his tail, and he could do nothing to prevent the pair using DRS to blitz past. The wait for his first podium podium went on.

2011 Belgian Grand Prix

Schumacher has had a special affinity with Spa Francorchamps – it was at the Ardennes circuit that he made his debut, won six times (including his first Grand Prix victory) and clinched his seventh and final world championship in 2004.

While he never came close to taking an eighth Belgian Grand Prix win with Mercedes, Schumacher took more points at Spa in his three years at Mercedes than at any other circuit and his drive to fifth in 2011 was the pick of the bunch.

Starting from a career-worst 24th position after a loose wheel pitched him into the wall in qualifying, Schumacher managed his tyres well- and capitalised on an early safety car appearance – to battle back to fifth place by the chequered flag. It was a fine way to mark the 20th anniversary of his first F1 start.

2011 Italian Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Monza, 2011In contrast to his attacking performance in Spa a fortnight earlier, Schumacher?s second consecutive drive to fifth a week later at Monza saw him on the defensive for most of the race.

Schumacher spent most of the first half of the race fending off Hamilton with a thoroughness that was right on – arguably beyond – the limit of acceptability. Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn even felt the need to personally issue his driver a warning over the radio. “I did exactly what I was supposed to do,” Schumacher insisted afterwards.

Button out-manoeuvred the pair of them to get into third and eventually Schumacher had to give best to Hamilton as well. But he’d made his mark in a spirited contest which led to the stewards clarifying the rules on defensive driving later on.

2012 Australian Grand Prix

Though the results may suggest to the contrary, Schumacher hit some of the strongest form of his comeback in the early races of 2012. Taking advantage of a much-improved Mercedes car he was a regular at the front of the grid and only a mixture of misfortune and poor reliability prevented him from securing the results his pace deserved.

The season-opener in Melbourne is a good case in point. After qualifying an impressive fourth he moved into third behind the two McLarens at the first corner, and was holding off Sebastian Vettel when a gearbox failure ended his afternoon after just ten laps.

2012 Monaco Grand Prix

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Monaco, 2012By the final year of his comeback, if not before, it was clear Schumacher was not the same driver he had been in his championship-winning glory years. Some even suggested his skills had waned so much he was no longer worthy of a place in F1.

But despite having given his critics plenty of ammunition, who could honestly say that a man capable of recording the fastest qualifying time on the streets of Monaco is not worthy of a place in F1? The 43-year old-stunned the paddock by becoming the oldest man to top the time sheets since Jack Brabbham in 1970.

Unfortunately, Schumacher was denied a place at the front of the grid – and a shot at victory – by a five-place grid penalty he had received for driving into the back of Bruno Senna in the previous race. It said a lot about the mixture of speed, inconsistency and occasional ragged driving that marked Schumacher’s final season.

Schumacher survived a swipe from Romain Grosjean on the run to the first corner. A fuel pressure problem saw him retire towards the end of the race, so perhaps not starting from pole position was a blessing in disguise.

2012 European Grand Prix

Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Valencia, 2012At long last, Schumacher made his return to the podium at the Valencia Street Circuit. A battling drive from a lowly 12th on the grid secured the Mercedes driver his first podium in 48 races and close to six years. It was his last in F1.

The result owed a lot to luck – Schumacher benefited from the retirements of Vettel and Grosjean, and Pastor Maldonado turfing Hamilton off the track in the closing stages. So tumultuous were the final few laps that Schumacher admitted he was initially unaware he’d finished third.

Ten years earlier, Schumacher had finished third only once all season, as he did in 2012. However, while in 2002 it was his lowest finish of the entire campaign, a decade later it was his best result not only of one season, but three. How times had changed.

2012 British Grand Prix

Schumacher caught the eye in a wet qualifying session at Silverstone. The ‘Regenmeister’ proved his wet weather prowess had not deserted him by outpacing team mate Nico Rosberg by over a second in Q1 and Q2, eventually taking third on the grid, only a quarter of a second from pole.

He proved it was no flash in the pan with another superb qualifying performance at a sodden Hockenheim two weeks later, thrashing Rosberg by 3.5 seconds in Q2 on his way to fourth place at the end of the hour. Though he again slipped back to seventh on race day, Schumacher had at least given his home support a final glimpse of the talent that had made him a seven-times champion.

Over to you

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Interlagos, 2012It’s hard to view Schumacher’s comeback as anything other than a failure. Far from winning races and championships, he found himself in the previously unheard-of situation of being consistently outperformed by his team mate.

But with the benefit of hindsight perhaps our expectations were too high. Grand Prix racing is a physically challenging sport, and even a driver as supremely fit as Schumacher found it challenging in his fifth decade.

The cars changed dramatically during his absence. In place of unlimited testing and a tyre war – two essential elements of his success at Ferrari – came strictly limited testing, increased use of simulators, and standard-specification tyres.

Most of all, though, Mercedes never gave Schumacher a car with which he could have challenged for regular wins. Given the backing they enjoy from a major car manufacturer and the success they enjoyed before their rebranding in 2009, this was poorly anticipated at the beginning of 2010.

What’s your view of Schumacher’s comeback? What he right to return? What, if anything, did his three years at Mercedes reveal about how his earlier successes were achieved?

And were there any other highlights during his return? Have your say in the comments.

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60 comments on Top ten: Schumacher comeback moments

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  1. Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 30th November 2012, 14:05

    I would’ve put Brazil 2012 on there too somewhere – maybe replacing Bahrain 2010. But other than that, I pretty much agree with this list. Well done! :)

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 30th November 2012, 17:18

      Well I’d already finished the article by then! It was a good drive, and I did consider finding a spot for it, but I think maybe we maybe we overrated it a bit with it being his last ever GP

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd June 2013, 10:28

      @journeyer @ned-flanders No way: He let another driver pass him, you don’t get a round of applause for that.

      • Journeyer (@journeyer) said on 3rd June 2013, 15:02

        @keithcollantine This reply is… a bit over 6 months late! Archive-trawling? :)

        But anyway, I’d put it on the list not so much for letting Vettel through (although it does say something that Schumacher was in such a position), but more for his fightback before that coming from a puncture – outhustling his teammate in the process.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd June 2013, 15:25

          @journeyer Better late than never!

          It really grates with me when drivers throw the white flag. Hakkinen did the same in his last race with Coulthard and I didn’t like that either. And the favouritism of it irked me in Schumacher’s case as well. “Oh I like you, here you can have a place.” That’s not right.

  2. gavmaclean (@gavmaclean) said on 30th November 2012, 14:17

    Good list! It’s been a tough time defending Schumacher over the last few years. But F1 Fanatic has been a good source of very considered articles that do what many angry Schumi fan boys have had such difficulty articulating.

    He didn’t get a race win, but it was great to see him and those moments this season in Monaco, Valencia and the rain gave us a great deal of happiness – especially for a man who hated, loved to hate and loved the man through Schumi’s career. As BBC pointed out he made his debut 18 days before the World Wide Web started and yet he was putting things on top of the time sheets 21 years later. Not as successful yes, but still I think a worthy 3 year addition to his career.

  3. TommyB (@tommyb89) said on 30th November 2012, 14:19

    Ten races must have been like getting blood out of a stone. Nothing really stands out but I can’t help but look at this “pole” in Monaco 2012 and think, what if…

  4. vickyy (@vickyy) said on 30th November 2012, 14:19

    I think you missed Korea 2010, he did exceedingly well to finish 4th where almost every car was aquaplaning here and there.

    • gavmaclean (@gavmaclean) said on 30th November 2012, 14:57

      Yeh I think that was another good race, especially with Schumacher going off track when testing braking points behind the safety car and just showing how much of the intelligence of old was still there.

    • Ned Flanders (@ned-flanders) said on 30th November 2012, 17:07

      That was a consideration, but he did benefit quite a lot from the retirements in front of him, and given that his teammate Rosberg was challenging for the podium before he was taken out, Schumacher might have shown more that day

  5. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 30th November 2012, 14:39

    I think only Schumacher himself can judge whether or not it was a mistake to come back. Some may say that his reputation has been tarnished by his three years at Mercedes, but does that matter to him?

    Personally, I found Schumacher’s presence in the sport over the past three years an interesting ingredient in what were already very interesting times in F1. Even though I hadn’t been a fan during his first career, I was hoping fom some good results the second time around. It’s sad that these results haven’t materialised, but overall I would say Schumacher’s comeback was an enjoyable experiment for him and the fans.

    • ManjuBoy (@manjuboy) said on 1st December 2012, 13:20

      Although I was a fan since his Ferrari days, this is pretty much how I feel. People worry about his legacy, but I think it was roaming the pit walls while others were racing that drove him nuts. It’s a classic case of taking on the challenge rather than wondering the rest of his life, “what if?” And I think Michael’s experience of the last three years of losing to a younger teammate has humbled him and made him grateful for the career he’s had. I think he’s grown a lot during his time with Mercedes and can approach retirement and his new life with more joy and fewer answered questions. And I’m sure Corinna is much happier that she has a husband more at peace.

  6. If he’d have had a bit of luck in the first half of this season, he’d have ended up with a mighty fine season, and this article would instead end with a final hurrah, which he did have, but not to the extent that he could have.

    So I think it is sad that things didn’t go his way.

    Schu really is a driver who makes a race though, half the time admittedly his performance was, not bad, just, not really notable either. Which for a team like Mercedes is, not that great, but when he did do something, he did it with class.

    I think for all the drivers on the grid today, it is a boon for them to be able to say, I raced with Schumacher.

    I think it’s amazing to think of all the amazing drivers who have lined up on the grid next to him.

    Senna, Berger, Mansell, Häkkinen, Piquet, Prost, Hill, Alonso, Vettel, Hamilton, Räikkönen, Button, Kubica, Villeneuve, Montoya and the list goes on.

    And just think, that guys like Perez or Hulkenburg will probably be one day added to that list.

    He’s raced against winners of Le mans, Winners of Champ Car, Winners of Cart, Of hand biking (Zanardi, who has an amazing story you really should look up) and the list goes on.

    Now that, is a career.

  7. abscrazyfast (@abscrazyfast) said on 30th November 2012, 15:00

    I think his first two years were definitely let downs, but 2012 he was a whole lot better than his highly rated teammate, and anyone who followed the season would know the only reason for his lowly 13th position in the standings was completely down to Mercedes. Schumacher lost so many points in the beginning of the season when Merc were still slightly competitive – all down to reliability and the team. In 2012, His driving in the wet, his qualifying performances – more than enough to satisfy his long time fans.
    I’m personally glad I got to see him drive for 3 more years. Unexpected gift.

  8. Magnificent Geoffrey (@magnificent-geoffrey) said on 30th November 2012, 15:00

    Nice article, Greg! As to be expected, of course.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 30th November 2012, 19:18

      Yeah, let count our luck he did not get eaten my wild animals in the Amazone forest! Thanks Greg, Its good to see these positives mentioned.

      I guess in many ways Schumacher put the bar up on driver commitment and fitness, but that also meant that the guys who followed into the sport are now at those levels and his age makes it hard to follow up and stay consistent in such a long campaign.
      And Brawn did have to sack too much from the team to be able to react to not having a great car, and is still rebuilding from that, I guess.

  9. tobinen (@tobinen) said on 30th November 2012, 15:18

    Thanks for the article

  10. David-A (@david-a) said on 30th November 2012, 15:29

    Korea 2010 was very good as well, he did some overtakes and handled the tough conditions very well to get 4th.

    Great article though, Michael will be missed.

  11. rabbit (@rabbit) said on 30th November 2012, 15:31

    Society quantifies success with awards, victories etc . But there’s more to life than that . Instead of trying to appease others , Schumacher had the guts to follow his inner voice . In the process he even outclassed many younger drivers . So his comeback is nothing to be ashamed of .

    The words on his helmet say it best – Life is about passions . Thank you for sharing mine.

  12. Frentzen said on 30th November 2012, 15:48

    Something that I haven’t seen in any of these type of articles is the mention of severe neck and back injuries he suffered while motorcycle racing…I just wonder with all the forces exerted on the body in F1 if that caused him any problems instead of everyone just saying outright age.

    • Naa, the only way they could have effected his driving is by causing him pain which would have meant he had to back off later in a race. If this were the case he’d of let us know

  13. Francuis (@francuis) said on 30th November 2012, 15:49

    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he decided to return to FI. He had a fighting spirit left in him.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he was out preformed by Britney in his 1st year back, we all knew he did not understand the tires and need time, as testing was forbidden.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he equaled Britney in his 2nd year back, because he is a racer.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he ran Barrichello of the road, because he had unfinished business.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he when he out preformed Britney in his 3rd year back, because we all know that he is a 7 time world champion.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he when he put his car on pole in Monaco, we all knew it was just a matter of time.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he when he was on the podium at last, we all said I told you so.
    Schumacher did not disappoint me when he when he out preformed his car in the rain, because he is the rain master.

    Schumacher DID disappoint me when he waved his little German friend by, because for the first time he was not a racer but a loser just smiling and waving his protégé by.

  14. vuelve kowalsky said on 30th November 2012, 15:56

    i was at mexico 1992 where he got his first podium, and i was at valencia 2012 where he got his last. So for me watching him race again, didn’t have any special interest. i can understand, the fans that never saw him race, wanted him to came back, to have that pleasure, and i can imagine what a disapointment it was.
    His record is so much better than the next, it is difficult to tarnish it, but for me it didn’t do it any good.
    How would the fans remember him? Sure not in a mercedes. I will in a benetton, and most i imagine leading a race on a red ferrari, with marlboro all over it.

  15. Jimmy Clark said on 30th November 2012, 16:09

    Thank you Greg and thank you Schumi.

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