I’ve had a lot of enquiries in the last few days about who will engineer Michael Schumacher at Mercedes. Many people wanted to know which of the two Brawn engineers he might get or whether Michael would be hiring in one of his ex Ferrari engineers.
I’ve contacted the team and the answer is that Schumacher will work with Andrew Shovlin, who engineered Jenson Button to the world championship last season. I’m sure they will get on well, Shovlin is experienced, calm and very intelligent. He’s a real family man and a very nice person, as well as a fiercely competitive individual. He’s 36, hails from Liverpool and was Button’s engineer for six seasons.
Nico Rosberg will be engineered by Jock Clear, who steered Jacques Villeneuve to the 1997 world championship with Williams. Clear is also extremely competitive and this will make for an interesting dynamic as Rosberg certainly did not expect to be sharing Mercedes with Schumacher when he signed on the dotted line in Autumn of last year and it could go either way for him. If he’s overshadowed it could affect him badly, but if he beats Schumacher it will raise his stock immensely.
This is probably a sound choice as Clear and Villeneuve developed quite an aggressive attitude towards Schumacher in 1997 leading up to the infamous clash at the final race in Jerez, when Schumacher attempted to drive Villeneuve off the road.
When I was researching the biography of Schumacher I wrote in 2006, Clear gave me some invaluable insights into their mentality with regard to racing against Schumacher,
‘Jacques and I worked out quite early on that Michael would lose if you put him under a huge amount of pressure, ‘ said Clear, speaking in early 2007. ‘He lost the 1998 world championship to Hakkinen by stalling on the grid. I mean who stalls on the grid for heaven’s sake?
‘It’s that kind of situation where he knows he’s not very good and he does everything he possibly can do to avoid ever being in that situation. Jerez was one of those rare occasions when it was down to ‘me against you’ for the title, on the track. Adelaide was another one, Damon put him under pressure, he lost concentration and hit the wall. In those situations he knows he’s not very good and his coping strategy for that situation is ‘I know I’m going to f** it up but I’ll still come out the winner.’ Adelaide was the right result for him because he won.
‘Jerez was another occasion, he knew he was asleep and he had made a mistake and he knew that Jacques was going to beat him. And he thought, ‘I don’t care what people say, I’m still going to walk away from this one the winner and people will say that even when I get it wrong I still win, so I am unbeatable.’ Because if he had allowed a reputation to develop for being beaten when you put him under pressure, then he’s eroded. But at Jerez it didn’t work and Jacques did beat him and that probably irks him more than any other failure he’s ever had. And it’s astonishing that having had all that time to think about it and come to terms with it, he then did it again in Monaco.’*
This is pretty feisty stuff and I’m sure he said it never imagining for one moment that three years later he would be working with Schumacher on the same team, sitting in a debrief room. But Clear also had an obvious massive respect for Schumacher away from the heat of battle and knows what a competitor he is.
Nevertheless, it was perhaps wise of Ross Brawn to keep them apart with all that history.
* Excerpt from Michael Schumacher: The Edge of Greatness, by James Allen (Headline 2007)