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

  1. JimmyTheIllustratedBlindSolidSilverBeachStackapopolis III said on 30th November 2012, 18:45

    Although the lowlights have outweighed the highlights during michaels come back i am adamant that in years to come the fans will regard him as highly if not higher than they did pre 2010. When the announcement was made that the most successful driver in history was returning to the sport. It took a pair of cast iron euphemisms to get off the sofa of retirement and throw the die against guys almost half his age, even with his fairly bad luck he achieved more than most drivers ever do.

  2. AndrewT (@andrewt) said on 30th November 2012, 18:54

    if you are a 7-time world champion of f1, and make your return into the sport with the current world champion constructor, one might expect a mighty strong performance, but even Schu himself declared at the very beginning, the he only considers himself, the car and the team worth for fighting the title in the third year of his contract.
    and of course they lost many-many points because of the reliability issues of Merc, but this year, and especially in the early stages of the season proved him right, the car was quick enough for delivering wins, however, this only happened once, and not to the Schu.
    it might look like that his comeback was a failure. i don’t think it was. we were experiencing a Schumacher, we have never ever seen before. not a machine that spends 24/7 hours on the test track of Mugello, striving for a perfect car and destroying all his opponents, especially his teammates on track on race-sundays. we have seen a Schumacher that was able to deal with lack of success, kept on smiling, and still working very hard. as it was mentioned above, he has never found himself in a situation like this before, in a relatively poor car, with literally no testing possibilities, and a very competitive teammate that was allowed to compete, and actually performed better than him (at least in the qualifications). in his Ferrari-years i could never have imagined this.
    he was and still is an outstanding driver, and i honestly do believe that this wasn’t the point when he should have been elbowed out of the team and out of the sport. he became better and better, and his improvement could have been continueing next season, if he would have been allowed to.
    for me, he proved that he was man enough to stand all this sh_t going around him, the attack questioning his ability, his age, and he couldn’t really strike back with strong results speaking instead of him. but he enjoyed every second and every meter he could take during the last 3 years, even if battling for lower positions.
    and the one last thing i need to say about this topic, that it says a lot of the Mercedes team and the relation between Schu and the team, that a 7-time wdc, a living legend simply did not have the right to announce his retirement, but practically the team did it…

    Agreed with the top10 moments. And my point of view about letting Vettel through in Brazil is simple: Vettel is still very error prone in traffic, and if Schu wanted to finish his last race in one piece, he simply needed to do this…

    • Nick (@npf1) said on 1st December 2012, 11:34

      Apart from the Vettel remark, I completely agree. I would add that, despite still being motivated, he had a … different sort of motivation. When you look at footage from Schumacher’s first career, he always looks very determined, cold blooded and practically inseparable from his engineers, data and any way he could improve.

      At Mercedes, I never saw this Schumacher. He was so much more laid back, probably because he stated when he rejoined, that he didn’t have to spend all his time at the factory and could spend more time with his family. I’m sure he expected more from the results, heck, he mentioned it in a BBC interview in the Brazilian GP broadcast. But he keeps using the word fun. How many times did he mention having fun when he came 3rd for Ferrari? How many times did we see him throw a surf’s up handsign when he qualified in a position he knew he would lose at Ferrari?

      I personally looked at some footage of his Ferrari days before the Brazilian GP and thought to myself ‘this is the Schumacher I miss’, he never returned to F1. We got the laid back, ‘I have nothing to prove’ version. He might have not been the same level of driver, but I’m glad he was back anyway and I’ll miss him.

      As for top moments; I jumped off the couch when he scored his Monaco ‘pole’, similar to how I did when I was 8, I’m 22 now.

      • Sgt. Pepper said on 3rd December 2012, 1:46

        I’m sorry but how can you disagree with Vettel being error prone in traffic? Ever piece of evidence argues otherwise, even if you are a Vettel fan (which I can assure you I most certainly am not). In fact I can barely remember one clean overtake Vettel has ever achieved, let alone admirable.

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 3rd December 2012, 8:28

          I can barely remember one clean overtake Vettel has ever achieved

          There’s dozens from this season alone. Rewatch the Belgian, Abu Dhabi or Brazilian Grands Prix and you’ll see plenty.

  3. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 30th November 2012, 20:08

    Always a treat, these articles.
    I will miss Schumi very much, these last years he provided an extra dimension, extra drama – in ways I never imagined before.

  4. I think if Schumacher and Rosber were allowed to test as much as they wanted Schumacher wouldve demolished Rosberg. The only reason he has struggled against Rosberg in his first 2 years was because Rosberg used a simulator and Schumi couldnt without feeling nausious.

    In 2012 with the benefit of the last years experience Schumi was able to drive closer to the limit, although he was still hindered by lack of testing, he was evenly matched with Rosberg.

    Let’s not forget that every good driver in F1 still models themselves on Schumacher who in turn learnt from Senna and Prost.

    I think Scumachers driving in 2002 is probably the best ever seen in f1 and if it’s beat it’s due to drivers learning from Schumi’s relentlessness.

    I don’t think he’s the best F1 driver of all time, but my god was he successful and rightfully so thanks to his determination, strength and skill. Anyone that wants to beats him in the future will have to demonstrate that they have more than Schumacher in 02

  5. N Guru said on 30th November 2012, 22:34

    I am not a Schummy fan and prefer a Raikkonen who in his first year of comeback has already beaten his teammate in Points as well as podiums even though he did not always qualify higher…Whereas Schummy seems to have had hard time just trying to beat his teammate… I always thought he was totally overarted and without the exclusive speacial tyres and other perks of being a one car team I doubt he would have achieved his seven tittles… maybe less certainly….

    • GeoR97G said on 1st December 2012, 8:03

      1) Raikkonen is slower in qual pace than Gro
      2) What special tires Schumi had? Alonso took his first title clearly due to Michelin’s advantage.
      3) When Irvine needed a win in Sepang GP ’99 to have possibilities for the title Schumi gave it.
      4) Who has done more testing than him when testing was free? That is why he dominated a whole F1 era. Look at Raikkonen’s workrate instead…
      5) His 2000 title was against the person who beat Senna in testing and made him angry. And won only on the edge due to his masterful drive in Hungaroring where in last stint drove like he was in qual and gained 1 sec/lap. Only HE could do this at this time and who knows about ever…
      6) His next titles in Ferrari was only due to having a very nice car who HE developed and McLaren hadn’t the forbidden metal in their engines and lost the advantage in speed. But he had Raikkonen, Montoya, Alonso to race against and in many races we all remember Williams BMW to be in front due to having 50HP more, especially in high speed tracks.

      To end this, those who gonna hate…

  6. Drop Valencia! said on 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

  7. James (@goodyear92) said on 1st December 2012, 2:00

    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.

    • GeoR97G said on 1st December 2012, 8:06

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

  8. 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.

  9. pantherjag (@pantherjag) said on 1st December 2012, 9:28

    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

  10. krtekf1 (@krtekf1) said on 1st December 2012, 11:50

    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 :)

  11. LoreMipsumdOtmElor said on 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.

  12. volga (@volga) said on 2nd December 2012, 8:08

    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.

  13. dragoll (@dragoll) said on 4th December 2012, 6:17

    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

  14. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 4th December 2012, 13:44

    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.

  15. Mr draw said on 6th December 2012, 18:52

    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.

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