A better car the key to Schumacher’s 2011 season
Mercedes
A better car the key to Schumacher’s 2011 season
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Sep 2010   |  12:11 pm GMT  |  162 comments

Michael Schumacher will compete next year in Formula 1, but how well it goes depends on the quality of the car that Mercedes gives him.


The seven times world champion has had a torrid time this season, scoring 76 points less than his young team mate Nico Rosberg and generally being outpaced by him everywhere. The old Schumacher, who’s presence always dominated the paddock and the race track during race weekends, is a far more anonymous competitor these days. It is often easy to forget that he’s in the field.

The reason why he has struggled is because what he has around him now isn’t what he enjoyed for many years with Ferrari, where there was unlimited testing and he could fine tune both chassis and tyres to his needs. Ferrari had a development contract with Bridgestone and so Schumacher was able to get the tyres exactly how he wanted them.

He took a calculated gamble to come back this season with no testing and it seems that he underestimated the effect it would have on his performance. Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn has defended him in the face of a rather odd one main campaign by former team owner Eddie Jordan, using his BBC platform, to say that Schumacher should be sacked and in any case will not race next year. The team is mystified as to why he should be taking such a stand on this issue.

Speaking to the F1.com website, Brawn said, “If you take the telemetry data in fast corners or his reaction time when the car breaks away, I don’t see any difference [to before his retirement]. There he’s still the old Michael,” said Brawn.

“But in the slow corners he cannot make full use of the tyres as Nico can. Nico has put the bar very high in this respect. But I guess that’s okay for Michael as he clearly sees where he has to improve. I predict that in 2011 we will again see the true Michael – when we’ve delivered him a better car.”

And that is the key to it. The 2010 Mercedes suffers from the fact that it was developed by a Brawn team that had limited resources and much of them were being directed at winning last year’s championship.

The key question is whether Mercedes will be able to deliver a good enough car next season. The team’s track record as Honda wasn’t fantastic, the 2005 and 2006 cars being the only good ones and the Brawn’s success last year owed a lot to starting the season with a controversial and well developed double diffuser, which rivals then had to copy.

The other key component for Schumacher will be the new Pirelli tyres. Here he will be helped by the fact that it’s a level playing field for everyone. But if they don’t fit in with his driving style, as the current Bridgestones do not, he could be struggling again. This is a secondary point to the chassis, which is the most important. But it’s significant nevertheless.

(Photo:Darren Heath)

Brawn shed some more light on why Schumacher struggles on these tyres in the F1.com interview, “Michael’s driving style depends on a strong front tyre that can withstand his hard braking and the steering manoeuvres that he prefers,” Brawn explained. “Nico has simply understood better how to handle these front tyres.

“I have to say that this year’s front tyre is very uncommon. That stems from the fact that the FIA wanted to promote KERS and had asked Bridgestone to develop tyres that would fit a certain weight distribution and thus create a specific tyre characteristic.”

All of this is also forcing a re-evaluation of Rosberg’s talents. At Williams alongside Webber and Nakajima he did not look anything particularly special, but this season he has really come of age and put in many strong performances across qualifying and race. Schumacher’s powers have waned in the years since he retired, but Rosberg is on it.

Brawn admits in the interview that if it were any other driver, he would not be retained. Schumacher needs a good car next year to salvage some dignity from his comeback. A few wins would be ideal, but even some podiums would enable to say that that the comeback was worthwhile on balance and that he enjoyed it. It is for this reason that it makes no sense for him to stop at the end of 2010.

The risk is that he gets another bad car next year and the poor results continue. Then he – and Mercedes – would be forced into some tough decisions during the season.

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1

If Schumacher won so many races and c’ship under Ferrari then what is wrong?. Ultimately everyone is looking to be at the best possible car. Without being talented how wud Ferrari have picked him up in their team? Its common in any sport/field that we want to get the best car/team/project/work so that we cud be successful!. Is my assessment wrong?. So its utter non-sense to say Schumacher won just because of the best car. He put in performances to get the best possible car in the field.

2

All drivers who have come back after an absence have struggled. Also, I think Brawn is professional and smart enough to recommend that Schumi retires – since he hasn’t done that, I firmly believe there is a lot more from Schumacher to come.

3

Oh, dear. In a way what happened with Michael for me just shows how difficult, how complex this sport really is. I remember how Hill suddenly lost speed in 1999. How Zanardi, the man who demolished his rivals in CART, couldn’t score a point. How Badoer was seconds off the pace in a Ferrari. How Fisichella got Pole in one race, changed car in the next one and was absolutely nowhere.

What happened with Michael is normal. Unexpected, but normal, unfortunarely. Still, for me he is the best I have ever watched. In his glory days he was head and shoulders above anything I have seen from any driver.

4

I just cant see that Schumacher is that bad. Please put everything in perspective and you will see that Schumacher is doing very good in these terms: Look at those who skipped at least half a year in F1 and returned recently:

– Badoer in the Ferrari last year

– Heidfeld in the Sauber this very time

– Massa in the Ferrari this year

most likely it is the tyre really….I remember it took some time for Raikkonen and Alonso (both very talented) to get used to the Bridgestones even when they did not skip a race!!

I think in these terms, Schu is not doing bad, on the contrary…with the massive 3 years hiatus factored in I venture to say that He is doing better than any other “quasi rookie”!

and also please note that I am a massive Mclaren/Hamilton fan!

5

I’ve been a trainer of soccer youth teams for years. There are different types too:

The talents: They have a natural feeling for the ball and training is just to learn the way their teammates run and react.

The workers: They continue training on their own: they do 100 free kicks a week to perfect their shooting.

But how will a world soccer champion ends if FIFA and UEFA decide to limit training to one hour a week, players are not allowed to touch a ball for rest of the week.

Will the talents win mountainhigh over the workers? Or do they get injuries and laughter because their pass play, even technically perfect, is far way from the teammate who was running left and not right and shakes his head?

Or will they run into brutal tacklings and injuries because they are not used to jump above tackler anymore with just one hour training? Will a hard playing style win in this case?

Hamilton got many points by aggresisve driving, but other drivers get used to it and don’t stick up anymore.

Schumi was a very talented worker, but the balance more on the working part. I don’t think that any driver would have won with the Ferrari’s. He taught them to train pit stops, listen to his feedback and all this. In the long run Alonso now takes advantage of the professionality Schumi brought to Ferrari.

6

The man is 41. Though I am not a top class racing driver, I am now 50 and there are dozens of things I can not do at the same level as I did at the age of 30. James’ previous posts on the Yas Marina experience just underlines the fact that racing drivers are athletes and like any athlete, they can get old past their prime. Does anyone think Federer, Nadal, Messi, etc. will be just as good in their sports when they are 41. I thought not.

7

James, I would like to ask something regarding the evolution of this sport. I know it’s sound strange but I will take guitar as an example.

Eddie Van Helen invented or popularized certain guitar techniques, namely “tapping”. He was the king because no-one had a clue how at the time. But nowadays, you can see so many teenagers who can not only easily do what Eddie did, but also took those techniques to a complete different level at this internet age.

Now my question is that does it work like that in driving?

I mean guys like Gills or Senna made others looked like they don’t know what they were doing in the rain. And Schumacher probably studied those and did similar things. Nowadays, I am sure most drivers tried to study certain driving techniques and if we can bring back a 30 years old Schumacher/Senna, do you think they will look as good as they were at their time?

8

funnily enough we were having that exact conversation with Johnny Herbert on the bus at the Yas Marina event this week. He said that every generation raises the bar in sport. I don’t think Hamilton and Alonso are more talented than Senna or Schumacher, but the standard required is higher because the cars are closely matched and reliable. It’s the same with football, tennis etc

9

Interesting discussion. I have played high level amateur basketball growing up, and I always watched big stars videos (i.e. Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird etc…) before every game to get my self pumped up mainly, bet then I noticed that sometimes you can get some hints from their way of playing.

I am not sure how much young drivers can learn from F1 drivers by just watching on the telly, I guess you would need to look at telemetry to be able to really appreciate what they are doing in the cockpit.

This is why I feel that Jacky Stewart’s comments that F1 Drivers could benefit from coaches is very valid in many cases. I know that you have eluded to this topic before as well James.

What are your thoughts?

10

Michael Schumacher is no different than any athlete around the world,This comeback was an ego trip,because he did not want to be a full time husband or father. Remember his wife filed for divorce early this year,When your at home no one cheers for you,his wife does not want to travel across the world with her kids any more,But this jerk came back for the wrong reasons.Nico is beating you period,stop using the excuse about your tires and front end of the car is not suited for his driving sytle,Ross shame on you.Norbert Haug will change things up at the end of the season, I do not belive Schumacher will be back in 2011,untill so lets wait and see when Adrian Sutil,Nico Hulkenburg,Kimi Raikkonen, Sabastian Vettel sign their new contracts for 2011 none of them have. stay tuned

11

I think the cowardly comments from Eddie/ Brundel show more lacking in themselves than in Michael. Eunuchs in the harem, been there, seen it all but could not do it if they tried.

Brawn is no idiot and if he can still see Michael has it then he deserves his seat at Merc.

12

Wow it seems that there are a lot of people who wants to kick a dog when he is down.

But it seems that a lot of those don’t understand that you can’t learn a lot without testing. Even those champions at their prime, took half a season to adapt the tyres with plenty of testing. James may be you should educate those a bit more.

13

To anyone that has competed in motorsport, ‘FEEL’ is the biggest part of the equation, but is also the most subjective and hardest to achieve.

14

Some of the comments on here are ridiculous, but I do think that 2010 has given us a different perspective on Schumacher.

I don’t know too many people who didn’t think he wouldn’t beat Rosberg (who, incidentally, I thought James was a bit harsh on – he always struck me as better than the car at Williams) this season. He’s just not found his groove.

Schumacher’s admitted that he can’t be the same driver he was at 25 but that he’s able to fight with the big boys by using his experience. Ross Brawn says he’s the same driver in terms of reactions and what have you, but not in the slow corners, which is where all the time is in F1.

For what it’s worth, I think he’s never been as good as his statistics make out, even before this season. You can only beat what’s in front of you but his biggest rival in terms of pure pace was Mika Hakkinen, who nearly died in 1995 and arguably was never as good as he might have been without that accident at Adelaide. Everyone else he was racing after Senna’s death – and that obviously does not include his team-mates – were not up to it – Hill, Villeneuve, Fisichella, Berger, Alesi, Coulthard, Frentzen, Ralf, Raikkonen, Montoya (although the latter two were just lazy, JPM was a better racer than Schumacher for sure and Kimi was as quick or quicker over one lap).

Then Alonso comes along, gets the Renault team and Michelin tyres behind him in a Schumacher-esque way, and beats Schumi in 2005 and 2006, which effectively retired him.

Since then, F1 has moved on in almsot every respect and the best drivers now are all much of a muchness. Alonso gets the ‘Schumacher’ treatment, as he did at Renault, only he’s doing it on the same tyres as everyone else, without limitless testing and without the constant whiffs of controversy that dogged Schumacher as regards the legality of his car and the ethics of his driving.

In short, Schumacher was brilliant because he honed a great natural talent, added hard work to the mix, got the team with the biggest budget to back him wholeheartedly and beat a middling bunch of drivers in mostly inferior equipment.

Now in his early 40s, none of that is the case any more and he can never again be what he was.

15

Michael is not driving at the same level when he left F1. I suspect that he is carrying an injury from his motor cycle accident that has not healed as fast as he would have liked.

I still believe a fit Schumacher in a car that he has confidence in could beat any current driver in Formula One

16

Oh come off it James, I know you are completely blinkered when it come to Mr Schumacher but this is bordering on the ridiculous. Eddie Jordan certainly isn’t the only one criticising Mr Schumacher, most of the paddock are together with most of the press and most of the fans apart from those so blinkered as not to able to see.

A racing driver’s job is to drive the car he’s given to the utmost of his ability and to adapt his driving to the car, that’s a proper driver and that’s what Rosberg has done very successfully this year. You seem to be saying that MS is incapable of driving any other car than one that exactly fits his needs, in other words he’s a one trick pony and in that I agree with you. It’s an even playing field already and if he can’t compete in it then he should get out before he completely destroys his reputation.

17

I’m not saying that at all. Nor am I apologising for him. He’s made his bed he must lie in it.

18

In my opinion MS has made a bad favour to himself coming back…also leaves me thinking that:

a) MS won many titles because of the extraordinary advantage he got during his ferrari years, specially with the unlimited testing and private track from Ferrari. Im not saying he is a bad driver but put 10 of the current drivers in that ferrari car with the bridgestones made up to suit the car/driving style and will also win 5 championships

b) He has lost it, if he ever had it. I dont think he was ever anything special, dont get me wrong he is a good driver, but nothing special. If he were the real deal and such a good driver and legend he would adapt to the tyres, not the opposite way. A young man (and talented) like Nico Rosberg has been able to do it, why the greatest legend doesnt do it is difficult to be justified…To be a good driver means not only be good when the car suits you but also be able to adapt to different circunstances, cars, tyres, conditions, etc. Ok, he has been out of the sport 3 years, but the season is about to finish and his results and differences with his teammates hasnt been better for him, in fact they have been much worse than at the beginning of the season

c) He is all over the place every race and being outpaced by his teammate, and even if Mercedes had by far the fastest car in all the field he would be right now just the #2 driver in the championship

All this sound to me like lame excuses from the most overrated driver in F1 history and one who at least by me will be remembered more by his unsportman conduct and his frustrated comeback than for the titles he has.

19

Actually there is a god above and ms is just getting his reward for all the cheating of 94 97 etc illegal traction control, launch control, punting damon out,trying to punt jv out,parking the car on the racing line at monaco,having slave teammates,winning the british gp while parked in the pits……the list is endless and through it all ross brawn was by his side aiding and abbeting him……at least now the world can see that he is not the amazing talent he was made out to be …..the emperor has lost his clothes

20

Could Michael’s problem be the same reason why Massa is struggling; considering the fact that Massa crystallized his skills around Michael?

21

No problem Michael, Ross will just remove some fuel filters, install launch & traction control, measure bargeboards with his “special” tools, and if worse comes to worse you can always use the car as a weapon…or track blocking device.

It’s F1. The car is the primary concern. Alex Yooung could have won in Michael’s “special” B194 and dominated in the F2002 with his wingman Tonto…er I mean Rubens.

When I watch Michael now I think of three things: either “this wine is corked”, Michael was ordinary in special cars, or Rosberg is the greatest thing to ever step foot into an F1 car….EVER!

23

know what… i’m tired of people saying it’s on the car or Bridgestones account for the not so great performance this year…

to me it’s simple and plain as i’ll say now: he doesn’t cope well with things that are different from what he likes, meaning that he only achieved the level of success he had because someone gave conditions for him to do so, otherwise we would NEVER been 7 time Weltmeister, max 3 or 4 times

24

The one and only factor that will decide whether we see the old Schumy or not next year is the Pirelli tyres. If the fronts can take the massive loadings that Michael is trying to put through them, loadings that the Bridgestones havn’t been designed to accept, then regardless of how good or bad next years car is he will make it dance and will get the best from it, just as Nico is doing now.

All this talk about the best drivers adapting their style to suit any car is a load of guff. How many drivers do people know off that have actually changed their style to its complete antithesis to drive what is an extremely complex car, both in its technology and in the details of how the aero and tyres work, and maintained that change over an entire season? I’m going to bet the answer is none.

Its worth noting that a number of drivers are having trouble with the Bridgestone fronts (Massa being the other front runner), so maybe we’re aiming the criticism in the wrong place?

25

I believe what Brawn is saying about Schumacher and his problems. If it was the rear tyres that didn’t work, then Schumacher would be murdering Rosberg. At the moment, it is the front tyres that are not working, which means that Rosberg has the advantage over Schumacher. This car is clearly suited best to Jenson Button, who hates driving a type of car that Schumacher likes.

The only cars this year that suit every type of driving style are the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens, which are the only cars capable of winning the championship. The only cars that suit no driving style at all are the three new teams because they have little grip with the front or rear tyres, and these type of cars are totally uncompetitive, so you can’t judge anyone driving in these cars. All the rest have cars which suit one driving style over the other. This is the midfield part of grid.

If I am the boss of a F1 team, these are my rules to dropping a driver:

1. If a driver is way off the pace consistantly in a championship contending team, I will be dropping that driver.

2. If a driver in a midfield team is struggling because his driving style is different to his teammate, then that driver can’t be dropped.

3. If a driver in a midfield team has a similar driving style to his teammate and is way off the pace, I will be dropping that driver.

4. A driver cannot be dropped from the lower teams as their cars are total uncompetitive and you can’t judge a driver’s competitiveness under these conditions.

5. You must use your own discretion in the decision-making process.

If possible James, could you have a look at all the current drivers in F1 and their driving styles, ranking their style on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being understeer and 10 being oversteer, please?

26

I don’t think the greatest F1 driver in history has to prove anything to anyone… his record speaks for itself.

Fact is Schumacher is human and getting older which must count for something, and if he is unable to work the car and the tyres given to him AND not allowed to develop them to suit his style he is going to be slower.

I for one am really proud that Schumacher is back out there and giving it his all, that’s all that anyone can ask.

27

James, a quick question about the 2010-tyres;

Are they very different compared to tyres of previous years, meaning next years tyres and beyond will be something more normal and closer to previous years(so shumi can play too)? Still I feel he should be performing better.. Also sloppy at exits I have noticed.

Shumi in a competitive car next year could make the WDC even better.

Also regarding raikkonen – do you think RBR are asking him to get a year at Renault to get a handle for the tyres for when Webber leaves?

What if Webber wins – do you think he will retire this year then(and make room for Kimi)?

28

Surely Eddie Jordan’s bitterness comes from the way he screwed up MSC’s first contract with Jordan Racing which allowed Briatore to steal him away to Benetton after his debut at Spa. Just think how much more EJ would have been able to sell his team for if it had garnered some of the success MSC brought to Benetton. Framed that way, I don’t see it as such a big mystery. EJ is just mad at himself and blames MSC for his own shortcomings!!!

29

That sounds reasonable. Maybe there is something more to it. Something that took place behind the scenes and we do not know it. I am almost sure that most of the insiders know what is wrong but they will not tell it in public.

30

absolutely, when i watch the old races, i hardly ever watch anything from 2001-2004 (and i have the entire collection).

its the seasons where he was building up the car with ferrari, and also in 2005, (not to mention the epic fight back in 2006) where he proved he was the no.1 driver, time and time again.

2005 was probably his best year ever, managing to finish 3rd in the championship. Look where rubens ended up.

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