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Schumacher and Rosberg mark out their territory
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Schumacher and Rosberg mark out their territory
Posted By: James Allen  |  11 Mar 2010   |  12:57 pm GMT  |  55 comments

The first day of the new season kicked off with a trip to a Mercedes dealership on a highway out of Bahrain’s capital Manama, to see Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg.

This was one of those occasions which was more interesting for what it looked like rather than what was said. It was a bit of a mess organisationally, with the principals over an hour late and then delayed further by a decision to do a TV scrum before the formal press conference, rather than the other way around. So by the end of it we had lost a whole morning and we didn’t get to the track until 12-30.

Anyway, Schumacher looked great; very fit and fresh. Look at his body language in my photo – it’s the classic legs wide, hands on hips stance of Henry VIII or George W Bush – the “I’m the boss here” message.

Alongside him Nico Rosberg looked well groomed and handsome, but you could sense his unease. He knew to expect the, “How can you beat this guy and what will it do to your career if you don’t?” questions, which duly came in.

He handled it quite well with lines like “I aim to look good in comparison with him, whatever that may mean,” but you can also see that he hasn’t yet worked out how to present himself in this situation. What role is he playing?

Most drivers have a clearly understood position and role they play this year; Schumacher is the returning champion, reigniting an old love affair with Mercedes, Alonso is the hungry champion starting a new love affair with Ferrari, Button is the reigning champion taking a very brave gamble by switching teams, Vettel the “man most likely to” and so on.

Rosberg is the guy who like the idea of taking on Button in a Mercedes, but then woke up one morning to find himself under a massive shadow. He’s had some good results in his four seasons in F1, but not enough and he’s not won anything yet. All he can build his persona on is that Ross Brawn really rates him.

So he has to tolerate being ignored by the throngs of media when he does a joint appearance with Schumacher, watch as the cameramen fall over each other to stick themselves with the great champion.

It takes the pressure off in a way, which is probably quite nice, but when the talking starts no-one is asking him positive questions.

The one revealing comment Rosberg made about the Mercedes car was that there is no fundamental imbalance there, it is just a question of aerodynamics, in other words the car is fine it just isn’t fast enough yet, because it lacks downforce. The team has a big update here this weekend so we will see where that puts them.

As for Schumacher he took a very simple line, “I’m back because I missed fighting the guys on the track, ” and you can believe him.

After he won the 2000 world championship for Ferrari, ending their 21 year drought, he said that he had fulifilled the obligation he felt to them and would now race for pleasure.

This time around that is more true than ever. He’s going out there to get some kicks from battles with Alonso and Hamilton because he missed racing and the fire had not gone out.

But this isn’t a vanity project and Mercedes is not a one year programme in his mind. I think he sees them getting stronger than the opposition over the course of this year and into next, so he probably fancies his chances of winning the title next year. He is here to enjoy himself first and foremost.

He got chippy when asked for his children’s thoughts on his decision to race again. My kids are off limits and you would all do well to remember that, was his stern line.

Don’t expect a charm offensive from him. He’s very professional and will meet his media obligations, but he’s not here to communicate, he’s here to race.

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55 Comments
  1. Ben says:

    I think Rosberg could surprise a few people this year. He’s never been in a hugely competitive car so hasn’t been able to shine. This year is different and I really don’t think Schumacher will have it all his own way. I was really impressed by Nico’s consistency last year and I think this team battle will be as fascinating as the others in the top four teams.

    Great blog by the way James, loving the Tweet service and look forward to more in the coming year.

    1. Ahlapski says:

      I too was very impress with Rosberg last season. After all he did score every single point for Williams, didn’t he??

      Yes, let the driving do the talking; this is very wise of him.

  2. Erico says:

    “My children are off limits”. That’s a fantastic line. Really. Tiger Woods could pull a leaf from that book.

  3. Milton says:

    I honestly don’t like the guy, but I have to admit: such a passion for the sport (or for anything at all) is inspiring.

  4. James W says:

    Cracking article, and I LOVED the last two paragraphs. Schumacher seems as focused as ever. Perhaps 40 really is the new 20?

    1. Thalasa says:

      I hope so.

  5. Jon says:

    You are just slighly maybe a little bit of a fan of the old Schum aren’t you? *cue laughter track* Aside from some over analysis of body language, interesting article none the less.

    Everybody is itching from some on track action!

    1. Dave+Kim says:

      Actually I thought the ‘body language’ story line was very interesting and relevent, thanks James (another good example of why we like your website/comments), this was a good opportunity to gauge just how each of them feel just now.
      My guess is that Rosberg sadly won’t do so well, and then everyone will blame it on his inability to face up to Schumi, whereas the fact is – as James also points out – he’s NOT so good anyway, never having won despite (sometimes) having adequate equipment. However I hope Rosberg DOES do well assuming the car he has now outshines those he’s had before, but there are a lot of ‘better guys’ ahead of him so he still won’t get very high on the scoresheets.

      1. Jon says:

        I remember reading James’s comments about Kimi last winter saying his skin looked clearer then ever. Interesting yes, but now looking back we can see that it had no difference in the first half of the season where Massa was stronger then Kimi until his injury. So basically, we can over analyse all the small signs from tea leaves, the moon and the stars but it’s what happens on track that matters the most. Just trying to keep it all in perspective.

  6. F1 Kitteh says:

    Too bad Schumi doesn’t have seem to have humor like W …

  7. Peter says:

    The typical, professional Schumacher. Never was one to talk about his private life into his racing life and it’s good that he’s still not doing that. I wonder what he thinks of Hamilton having brought his girlfriend and dad to most of his races. Two great drivers – but two very different as well!

    1. Rabih says:

      the comparison is a bit off, Schu had his manager at all races same as Hamilton which happens to be his father, and his wife corine barely missed a race….

    2. Jason C says:

      I disagree – I see quite a lot of similarity between Hamilton and Schumi. Especially the sometimes awkward way they come across in the media. Contrast them with say Button or Massa who both seem to much more charismatic on camera.

  8. MikeW says:

    You have to feel for Rosberg. Pretty much everyone thinks that, of the top 4 teams, he’ll finish 8th.

    In this game, everyone knows the line “The first target is your team-mate”. But do the drivers avoid saying that when they’re at sponsor’s events? After all, as far as the team is concerned, the first target is to beat the other 22 drivers, *then* your team-mate.

    1. Thyraeus says:

      Too True:

      The cover of Autosport:
      Button + Hamilton, Alonso + Massa, Vettel + Webber, and Schmumi ALONE!

  9. David Brown says:

    An interesting insight as always.I don’t think I will ever get over what he did to Damon, but you have to admire the man. I like the comment he made about his kids, the hype is about him and his racing, the family should be off limits. More stars should do the same, and we’d get less tittle tattle fed to us.

    I really hope Nico can at least manage what Felippe did, and give the old warrior a run for his money.

  10. Ed says:

    James, could you clarify what is happening with statistics this year?

    According to the F1 website, Sauber is keeping BMW’s stats, while Mercedes is being seen as a new team, not as a continuation of the 1954/55 team.

    I could understand why this might be the case for Lotus, but I’m not sure why Mercedes is being seen as a new team…

    1. James Allen says:

      That’s the way it it, I guess. Also it’s a very long time since they were last in F1

      1. Jodum5 says:

        I’m sure there is more to it than that. Mercedes wants nothing to do with the last grand prix team (do a google search on the reasons for their original exit) and would hardly want their team to related to the old Honda effot. Lotus doesn’t want to be hampered by the history of the original Lotus team (or they would still be called Team Lotus).

        BMW Sauber can keep their stats since their name never changed. I’m sure they’ll soon drop the BMW from their name though.

      2. Ed says:

        I understand the terrible circumstances in which Mercedes left in 1955, but I disagree that they want nothing to do with this previous incarnation. All the references to the Silver Arrows and the history of the team on the website show that fairly clearly.

        I think its a pity that for whatever reason this historical link has been missed, especially in a year where the sport’s history is being celebrated.

        I see your BMW point, but the problem is, if it is related to the name change, why did BMW get to keep Sauber’s stats back to 1993?

  11. Slowflow says:

    He’s already up to his “old tricks”

    As according to Joe Saward

    “There are also rumours that there is a certain amount of friction inside Mercedes GP as the data of the two cars is not being shared as it is in other teams. I did not see Ross Brawn today so I have not had the chance to ask”

    Sad, if true! :(

    1. Raelene says:

      why sad? Every driver should take every advantage he can get….how do you know it’s not Rosberg that doesn’t want to share – he’s had the most recent history in an F1 car

      I wouldn’t share any of my data with my competitor if Ithought it would help them.

      This is a competition.

    2. HowardHughes says:

      Huh. I wondered how long it would be before Saward started his perennial whining about Schumacher. Change the record! If he’s not moaning and making snide, begrudging remarks about Schu, he’s inexplicably talking up Tonio Liuzzi like he’s on a share of earnings.

      Here’s a clue Joe – it’s F1, not tag team wrestling.

    3. Alias James says:

      I think Ross Brawn has been pretty fair and protective of Rosberg so far. In fact, fair and protective of both drivers!

  12. smellyden says:

    James off topic, but I hope you dont mind, you said you are doing some spots on Australian TV, will these get posted on your site or on you tube? Or any members of the site would mind upping them, the more James Allen the better I say!

    1. James Allen says:

      No, they are from the circuit so are subject to FOM restrictions

      1. Brace says:

        Argh, FOM restrictions…
        They’re getting in the way of more fun than even damn health and safety.

      2. F1ART says:

        So yes they will end up on youtube!

  13. rpaco says:

    It would serve them right if you had all departed when the “principles deigned finally to turn up.

    In his particular position when it is well known that his wife was against his return to racing, he has a nerve saying things are off limits. Obviously trying to interview his kids is not allowed, but he must remember how much he relies on the press, a simple “they are excited” or “not bothered” would have been far better than biting heads off. Now he has just goaded the press, which will have the opposite effect of what he intended.

    Any way, how hot is it at the track James? what are the surface and air temps? Remind us what the atmospheric pressure (thus the air SG or thickness) is over there. Last year it was a problem, the air being too thin to generate enough downforce to heat the tyres.

  14. My kids are off limits and you would all do well to remember that, was his stern line.

    Well said. Its none of the media’s business what his kids think. Thats private stuff and long may it remain so.

  15. Raj says:

    You get the impression that Micheal still doesnt like dealing with the media.

    1. Glen says:

      It sounds to me like Schumacher has regained a high level of focus and is now again blocking out the distracting media. Recently he has been more human.

    2. Jodum5 says:

      Why would he?

  16. ColinZeal says:

    I for one am a big fan of Nico Rosberg, I like watching him drive and I would love to see him prove himself this season. Certain people seem to agree that Nico has got winning potential such as Ross Brawn and Martin Brundle but the press as a whole don’t seem to see it as of yet.

    Nico seems like a sensible and down-to-earth chap so I hope he can take this opportunity and take the fight to Schmacher. I’m sure he’d be the first to admit his relative lack of experience but who better to learn from than Ross Brawn?

  17. Bayan says:

    James, did you get a feeling that Rosberg might feel like he’s way in over is head?

    I think he will do well this year but will still loose out to schumi this yr. Experience does count for something, this yr more than the last few!

  18. Nikolai Currell says:

    Ross Brawn will let Rosberg beat Schumacher unlike the situaion at Ferrari where Schumacher was outright no. 1. Nico needs to have some belief and perhaps some luck and he could do what Rubens did in the second part of last year to Jenson Button!

  19. Pat says:

    I think Rosberg will beat Schumacher this year if the playing field ids level.

  20. MIKE SPA says:

    James,

    There seem to be rumours that the excellent Gary Savage has left the team (and some others?) can you confirm or offer any insight if this is true? thats a big blow to MGP if he has left.

  21. David Brown says:

    I loved one of the quotes via the tweets….Jenson says ” having Michael back makes me feel young again!!!”

    1. Axu says:

      Jenson has a great deal of (good) humour.
      Still :)

  22. Jon says:

    James, you are replacing Windsor as the One HD “track correspondant” on race day. Webber is of course the hometown boy. Windsor would often talk of Webber one way, but then when you see clips of Speed TV (aired in US) he would talk of Webber a different way. I hope you can find a good balance between not kissing Webber’s ass for the Aussie viewers, but also being mindful that he is well supported. Not an easy balance! Imagine talking to a Spanish audience about Alonso’s race chances. Aussie’s aren’t that bad though. Either way, look foward to seeing your insights before the races commence.

    1. Dave+Kim says:

      I think we can trust James to do a good impartial fair job! I lot of people seem to say he’s sometimes biassed but surely we all have our favourites – otherwise you’d get a reporter who doesn’t really follow or understand the sport and its characters! Clearly James thinks a lot of Schumi, and rightly so given his history and achievements, yet I don’t see strong bias in James’ reports at all. Yer all right, James! I’ll be watching F1 via Speed (reluctantly had to pay extra for the cable package to include just that one channel) but sadly they often crop the post-race interviews to just the first one or three soundbites…
      By the way James, in post-race interviews in the past they showed the winning drivers clips from the race for them to comment on – will they still do that, or why did they stop doing it, and who makes that decision?

  23. lip_iceman says:

    “He got chippy when asked for his children’s thoughts on his decision to race again”

    Interesting that this was asked at all. The knowledgable media know that they’d not get an answer to the question itself; it remains that they asked it to measure his reaction.

  24. Buck says:

    An interesting dynamic there that could swing the advantage either way; Schumacher with the pressure to perform like his old self and Rosberg flying in under the radar.

    To make a point in another sport: As many Olympic fans may recall, American skiing great Bode Miller went in to the 2006 Olympics as the hands down favorite to win several medals, but when he didn’t win anything he got tarred and feathered by the media and the public.

    He came into this season out of shape having not skiied or trained for six months, and didn’t peak until the Vancouver Olympics. But this time he came in flying under the radar with all the media attention on his female teammate Lindsey Vonn. Though he wasn’t expected to win anything this time around, Miller subsequently went on to win three medals.

    Just goes to show pressure or the lack of it does unpredictable things to athletes.

  25. Marco Coltelli says:

    James, Michael has always been very clever at answering questions during interviews. He is the king of one line answers. How difficult has it been to interview him over the years as he rarely gives anything away? Also do you think it is significant that he has chosen to race with his red crash helmet this year rather than go back to his German colours. I think Martin Brundle was saying it’s gonna be interesting seeing him pull alongside the Red cars in anger. Let the racing commence.

  26. Morris Mao says:

    I expect Rosberg may make time tough for Schumacher. Just like 2007, Hamilton did to Alonso.

    But Brown should manage his team better than Danes, so, if their car can win a title, it would be Schumacher to take it.

    But Rosberg still have chance to prove himself when competing with Schumacher. If that is the case, he will have the future, in the next year, or most probably, in the third year.

  27. rpaco says:

    James have you established if the FIA software will log each tyre used on each lap in Q3?

    Also will there be a tyre inspection on the grid to ensure correct tyres are on the top ten?
    Will we still get the weights on Saturday?

  28. CMR says:

    Fine article James one of the best! can’t help but see the age in Schumacher when he’s alongside and amongst the likes of Rosberg, Vettel etc..

    Although I’m sure he will teach them a trick or two on the track, especially when it rains!

    I’ve no doubt he will school Rosberg for most of the season, after a couple of ‘install’ races

    here we go again….

  29. Jamie Kirkland says:

    Rosberg seems to be ina no-win / no-lose situation.
    If he were to beat Schumacher i think it might be percieved as due to Schumacher being 41, coming back from retirement ect. rather than Rosberg’s ability.
    But on the other hand, if he gets beat he’ll have been beaten by one of the top drivers and shouldnt effect his reputation too much.

  30. Paige says:

    “Most drivers have a clearly understood position and role they play this year; Schumacher is the returning champion, reigniting an old love affair with Mercedes, Alonso is the hungry champion starting a new love affair with Ferrari, Button is the reigning champion taking a very brave gamble by switching teams, Vettel the “man most likely to” and so on.”

    One glaring omission… Hamilton? What’s his role; man who is under the radar when he very clearly shouldn’t be? ;)

    Also, to what degree do you think Schumacher has some nationalistic motivation in coming back with Mercedes?

    1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

      Hamilton’s role is to blow Alonso away with both having competitive machinery.

  31. David S says:

    James,
    Didn’t MS have some kind of ‘problem’ with Martin Brundle and ITV/BBC in previous years in addition to a contract with German TV?

    Is this still the case or will Martin and EJ have a chance to probe the old man!!!

  32. Pierre says:

    As many think and I said here when Schumacher’s return was announced, I still think it’s gonna be a very very hard time for Rosberg. I’m not at all a Schumacher fan, but one has to admid Schumacher has perfect shape, still hungry for victory, has still adrenaline that feeds his body and mind, best engine, good car, huge experience, hard worker, fast, team up with Ross as during the good old days, etc.
    He might destroy Rosberg. It’s not that he would be much faster, don’t think so. But just a bit faster most of the time, getting better results, taking advantage of any opportunity and winning the key moments of the season… I might be wrong, but this season will be decisive for Rosberg’s career. Nico and Keke must know that.

  33. Kedar says:

    Hi James,
    Reading through all your posts (3 today!) I realized why I love this blog, you give the topics a personal touch and its almost like being there. Looking forward to more such posts from you during the season

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