There is a lot of chatter at the moment about the updates on the Mercedes in Barcelona being done to help Michael Schumacher, but at the expense of Nico Rosberg. Rosberg had a stronger start to the season, but in Spain the form was turned around.
In contrast, Michael Schumacher qualified well and finished in fourth place, his most competitive showing of the season so far.
Inevitably this has led some commentators to suggest that Mercedes is working to get a car which works for Schumacher at the expense of Rosberg’s competitiveness. Given Schumacher’s track record in this department, the stories have gained some traction. But is it the case here?
German commentator and former F1 star Hans Stuck said, “Mercedes mustn’t sacrifice Rosberg’s quality to build a car which only suits Schumi,” and in the UK Eddie Jordan has jumped on the bandwagon, saying “It would be a mistake to build a car according to Schumacher’s wishes.”
But in Spain, I attended a briefing at which Ross Brawn shot down the idea that the car had been changed to help Schumacher. He pointed out that the developments were put in production long before Schumacher struggled in the Chinese Grand Prix. In many cases they were the product of findings from winter testing,
“The developments on the car were in no way focussed towards one driver or the other, ” said Brawn. “It’s extra downforce, more range on the weight distribution better braking, all of which would help both drivers.
“There were fairly consistent comments from both drivers. And these developments were well into the system before we had the glitch of Shanghai with Michael. They take in some cases many months to do. Some of the developments were from what we saw in winter testing. They are not aligned to one driver or the other.”
Rosberg himself said that the changes were to suit both drivers, “We’ve made a significant step. Until now we found that the driving styles are similar and our comments fall into similar areas. I don’t think that there is too much difference. We suffered from too much understeer (in Spain) and it’s one of my weaknesses, I have difficulties coping with an understeer car. This weekend Michael has coped with it better than me.”
“What helps us in developing the car is that we have pretty similar requests, ” said Schumacher. “It’s a matter of time to cure our issues and keep on developing.
“Barcelona is a track that provokes understeer so it’s natural to have understeer, with the long corners. Everything you do to move away from it gives you oversteer. So you have to live with a certain amount of understeer. Although we have made modifications, it allows me to set up the car a bit more specifically to what I like and opens a window for possibilities, but it doesn’t change completely the car.”
This weekend the Mercedes will revert to the original suspension layout, which gives a wheelbase some 5 cm shorter than the Barcelona car, because of the tight nature of Monaco’s corners. The longer wheelbase car will return in Turkey.
Mercedes announced today the signing of another major sponsor, Deutsche Post, who once appeared on the Jordan. The company’s branding will appear on the chassis and front wings from this weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix onwards.