Michael Schumacher, Mercedes, Valencia, 2012

Top ten: Schumacher comeback moments

2012 F1 season reviewPosted on | Author Greg Morland

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. Drop Valencia!
    30th November 2012, 23:09

    I think he quit too soon! 2010 and 11 were alittle embarrasing, but 2012 he was a match for Rosberg! I don’t think anyone really saw that coming!

    Anyway, I have a question for other english speaking fanatics, on Valencia 2012 podium press conference, did you guys get to see the drivers speak in their own languages? Alonso did Spanish, Kimi Finn, and Michael went on again in English for quite awhile, it was hilarious, even Kimi laughed/smiled, which I have not seen since Kimi had to do that forced smile before he got his first drive… That was my fave moment of MS’s comeback

  2. Thanks for this. As a fan of Schumacher’s, it’s sometimes hard to stomach the general disappointment of these last three years, but it’s even worse when most choose to ignore the moments that haven’t been disappointing. His pole lap in Monaco (“You little star!”) was a brilliant moment for him, his fans and the sport in general. It showed that the fire inside was still burning and that the inherent skill was also still there, even if his age didn’t let it show too often. Valencia was a good moment, but not quite the podium I would have liked to see. His finishing position was helped a significant amount by all the retirements and penalties that rounded off those last few laps. It should have happened for him before then, to be honest. His drive in Canada last season was a lesson for all on how to make the best of wet conditions. His demotion to fourth was irritating to see and just down to DRS on a track that didn’t, and still doesn’t, need it. He was robbed and we were robbed of seeing him claim a podium on merit, which would have added so much more to an already fantastic race.

    I agree with all of these highlights, but I would have added Malaysia 2012 as one. His 3rd place came at a time where Nico Rosberg was failing to deliver on the potential of his car, by making crucial errors on his flying laps (Australia, Malaysia and Bahrain).

    Great article. Michael will be missed on the grid next season.

    1. Nice points. I’ll miss him too. Never going to forget what he was like when driving in Monaco or on rain…

  3. Suzuka last year? He did pit-jump a Ferrari, and was threatening to pass a McLaren in the closing stages, and ultimately finished sixth.
    Also maybe Spa this year, his mega first stint saw him pass a Lotus and a Force India(who are always demons at Spa), before tyre gremlins and a poor strategy dropped him behind Massa and Webber.

  4. Nice Article

    Schumachers comeback was always going to be difficult with him being aged 41 and letting the competitive fires recind for 3 years. His comeback and subsequent struggles prompted me to do a lot of research on sport and the effects of age both in formula 1 and other sports and my finding only confirmed that michael had embarked on an almost impossible mission. That he was as competitive as he was was actually to his enormous credit and as the article points out there was some great races and moments over the 3 years.

    However the article misses out what i though was one of michaels best races and that was monaco 2010, he drove a great race and if not for the safety car closing the gap several times he would have gapped rosberg by 10-15 seconds by the end but the best moment was that audiacious pass on alonso on the last lap, it wasnt just the pass but the preparation, schumacher had noticed on the previous lap that alonso was struggling for traction out of rascasee even under the safety car(his tyres having done 76 laps) and so positioned his car and took such a line so that if alonso had similar problems on the “restart” he could take advantage, he did and the rest is history.

    Of course a farcical penalty was to folllow which almost no-one agreed with and prompted a rule change but schumacher had made his mark and the fact it was on the driver who was considered to take his mantle made it all the sweeter

  5. I was very happy when he announced his comeback in december 2009. The expectations were abnormally high (his achievements in first career were so impressive), MS probably made them even higher when he talked about “figthing for 8th tittle”. But the season 2010 showed that three years out of F1 did not really helped him. His teammate Rosberg was by no question faster, only on a few occasion MS outperfomed him. But to the end of the season it was obvious that his performance is becoming better. The mercedes promised to make more competitive car for 2011, but after high expectations in testing it was clear very soon, that w02 is not better than w01. Even though he was still struggling in qualifying (sometimes it was surely a tactic decision for better perfomance in the race), MS proved through the season that he is on the same level as Rosberg. He achieved the best result for the team (4th in Canada), and at the end of the season he was only 13 points behind NR. If he would not have more DNFs than Nico, I am sure that he would finished in front of him. The season 2012 brought again high expectations. Mercedes was finally competitive. In first races MS outperformed Rosberg (except China), but because of mechanic and team failures (Gearbox in AUS, not properly fitted wheel in China, DRS problem in Bahrain, …) he collected only two points, his teammate in that time 67! He showed incredible final lap in Q3 in Monaco (but started sixth because of penalty from Spain) and then finally scored some more points by finishing on the podium for the first time in second career. After that he superbly performed in rain (qualifyed 3th in Britain, 4th in Germany), but because of struggling Mercedes he could not achieve some good points in the races. Except 6th place in Monza and 7th in his final race in Brazil there was no good results till the end of the season. In the last 13 races he collected 47 points, NR in the same time 26! It is obvious that he would finished the season much higher if the Mercedes would not be such a miserable car… The last season was clearly his best in his second career, he showed that he can fight on the same level with much younger drivers. Event though he made some stupid mistakes (Spain, Hungary, Singapur), he had some very impressive moments! To be the fastest in the qualifying on the toughest race track in the calender, at age of 43…….Yes, he is still one of the best! :)
    Thanks to Greg for great article and to Michael for sharing the passion :)

  6. LoreMipsumdOtmElor
    1st December 2012, 23:25

    You forgot Hungary 2010 – the only race where we saw Schumi like in his good old days, trying to kill the nicest guy in F1.

  7. in his second career, michael was at the level of WEB/BUT rather than VET/HAM. he could win races in a race winning car but the 8th title was impossible. yet i don’t think it was a mistake to comeback, it was still good to watch him for three years and to see him driving some good races even ending up like 5th or 7th. the mistake was retiring at the end of 2006. he was still very close to his peak, the cars were much familiar than the post-2008 cars and the competition was very high, including lewis, fernando and kimi. he should have accepted the challange to race alongside kimi. he would have two more shots at the eight title and regardless of winning it, it would be a more fitting end to such a career and he probably wouldn’t feel the need for a comeback.

  8. Looking back on Schumi’s career, his 7 titles, what he’s had to endure, the mistakes he’s made, restoring the Ferrari team back to winning ways after such a long drought, its not hard to see why so many people are polarized by this individual.

    Love him or hate him, he is a part of F1 folk lore.

    Personally, I will always be proud to say that I’ve been a fan for the duration, from his very first start in Spa 1991 through to Brazil 2012.

    Thank you Michael Schumacher for the unforgettable moments. I understand that no one can drive forever, but that doesn’t mean I won’t miss you on the track, sparking controversy, both positive and negative, and stunning us with some absolutely awesome drives.

    1992 Belgian GP, 1993 Spanish GP, 1994 Spanish GP, 1995 Nurburgring (European GP), 1996 Belgian GP are just some of the highlights that I hang onto dearly. Let alone the Ferrari domination of the early 2000’s

  9. Don’t agree that his comeback can’t be viewed as anything else than a failure. I think he did pretty well all things considered! He probably wasn’t as sharp as what he should be but to write off his 3 years as a failure is a little harsh in my opinion. He entertained me and as far as I’m concerned it’s Mercedes who are the failure.

  10. Michael Schumacher’s Formula One comeback did not achieve the success he and Mercedes were hoping for. But nor was it a complete disaster.

    It WAS a complete disaster. His “pole position” in Monaco and his third place in Valencia are the only things his comback is positively remembered for. Even Schumacher himself was having a hard time explaining why he wasn’t unhappy. It was just some PR talk, it was not how he really felt. It was so obvious I cannot imagine anyone believed him. I’m sure he hated every moment of his time at Mercedes: beaten to dust by his teammate, unable to unravel the secrets of the Pirelli tyres and suffering multiple retirements – although he frequently had to blame himself. On some occasions he confessed he didn’t enjoy racing anymore, for example after the 2011 Turkish GP if I recall correctly. Probably he desperately wanted to show once more that he was still capable of winning a race, but with Mercedes’ rate of development being so low, he never got a chance after the Monaco GP. He probably should have retired in Valencia. Sadly he only seemed to realize after Mercedes signed Hamilton that he didn’t get another chance to shine, which meant he’d suffered for three years for nothing.

  11. You can only go as quick as the car allows! The Mercedes was rarely up to the job !! If your half a second of the pace then it’s going to struggle ,the mans a genius and still a very quick driver,a sad loss to f1

  12. agree with the articles and the highlights of schumi return. schumi can still become the reference for younger driver nowadays. his passion, his commitment for f1 never decrease, he always do in 110 percent. too bad, merc too many let him down wth very poor car. i believe schumi always focused when he was driving his merc, but the car did not give him a proper feedbacks, unlike his benetton and his ferrari, the merc obviously have very poor speed, i kept remember when schumi tried to to defend his position again hamilton fast car, schumi did everything he could do to kept the position secured. too bad, the merc destroyed his dreams. i always love his driving pure driving style and will missed him on the track.

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