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Schumacher rolls back the years on frustrating first day: ” I feel it”
Posted By: James Allen  |  16 Mar 2012   |  9:41 am GMT  |  106 comments

After all the hype and the build up to the new season it was rather a frustrating first day of the new season in Melbourne. Rain affected both sessions, the second one more than the first and the amount of dry running was limited.

Michael Schumacher set the fastest time in the afternoon on a drying track; not hugely significant in itself save for the impression that the 43 year old seven times champion is excited by this new Mercedes and the step closer to the front that it represents.

Red Bull looked like they were carrying lots of fuel all day and never showed their hand, McLaren delivered on expectations, looking competitive and setting the fastest times of the day in the morning, with Jenson Button heading Lewis Hamilton in Free Practice one, which featured around 40 minutes of dry running. The Ferrari looked a handful, Alonso sliding the car aggressively in search of a lap time. Felipe Massa had an off in the morning and looks some way off Alonso’s pace.

But the attention is on Mercedes at the moment, not least because they did not run the new passive F Duct system which has been cleared by the FIA’s Charlie Whiting. Perhaps we will see it on the car tomorrow. It’s a powerful tool, but its benefit will not be seen here. Malaysia and especially China with its long straight will really show the benefit.

“Today was a nice start into a hopefully exciting season, and certainly two promising sessions for us,” said an upbeat Schumacher. “However, I would not go so far as to speak about being confident, as the weather conditions were too mixed to gain a clear picture. We know what Friday sessions are for and don’t know what fuel loads others were running. On the other hand, it is good to see that we were competitive in different circumstances today and that the car provides good handling – I just feel it.”

On his first competitive outing in an F1 car for two years, Kimi Raikkonen lost time this morning when he needed to change the steering rack; he managed just 8 laps in the dry and left it until the end of the second session to go out. A grand total of 15 laps for the great comeback.

HRT suffered to prepare two cars, De la Rosa managing just one lap in the second session, although Karthikeyan covered 19 in the day. But it will be a bog challenge for them to qualify within 107% tomorrow, to avoid a repeat of last year where they were not allowed to start the race.

Marussia did well to cover 49 laps with a car, which had not managed to do any pre-season testing. This car is a completely fresh start after the disappointing cars of 2010 and 2011. It will be very interesting to see what kind of pace it has, but without any time to do set up work there will clearly be much more time to come from the car over the next few races.

With so much time lost today, the focus tomorrow will be on preparing the car for qualifying, especially for the less experienced drivers.

* Listen to Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn talk about how he’s building the team into a winning outfit on the JA on F1 podcast. CLICK HERE

AUSTRALIAN GRAND PRIX, Melbourne, Free Practice 2
1. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m29.183s 16 Laps
2. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m29.292s + 0.109 19
3. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m30.199s + 1.016 23
4. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m30.341s + 1.158 13
5. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m30.709s + 1.526 14
6. Paul di Resta Force India 1m31.466s + 2.283 13
7. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m31.505s + 2.322 14
8. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m31.932s + 2.749 16
9. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m32.184s + 3.001 17
10. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m32.194s + 3.011 19
11. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m32.296s + 3.113 20
12. Timo Glock Marussia 1m32.632s + 3.449 17
13. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m32.767s + 3.584 15
14. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m32.822s + 3.639 11
15. Jenson Button McLaren 1m33.039s + 3.856 18
16. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m33.252s + 4.069 11
17. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m34.108s + 4.925 21
18. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m34.275s + 5.092 7
19. Bruno Senna Williams 1m34.312s + 5.129 17
20. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m34.485s + 5.302 29
21. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m34.604s + 5.421 31
22. Charles Pic Marussia 1m34.770s + 5.587 13
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m42.627s + 13.444 16
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1

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Hi James,

Seating at Turn 2 yesterday. Any idea as to why pretty much everyone seemed to lock up at Turn 1 at the end of FP2? Is this an effect of the reduced down force due to the ban on the exhaust blown diffusers?

The Red Bull and Force India drivers fared much better though, being on the same medium tyre as the othersI think.


Great to see F1 back!!

Just in case anyone wants to try it – I watched the practice sessions online at The Speed Channel’s site ( Might only be available in the USA, but could be worth a try for you ex beeb fans 🙂


They have the 3rd practice online, as I recall it doesn’t have any commentary-just the live feed, which is rather interesting.

Stone the crows

Its good to see Michael at the top of FP2, its about time. It appears Mercedes has made a significant step forward this year. But I wonder how much of an advantage they’ll have once the track is rubbered in and they’ve got a race load of fuel. Mclaren looks very good, and I think Lotus will be consistent with a race load.


While I would love to say Mercedes and Schuey fired the first shot, weather did not allow the top teams to show real pace. I will say that Michael’s age is irrelevant. I believe it was Bob Varsha who described Schuey as that once in a generation phenomenon. You can’t make average assertions when it comes to him. Its the car driver combo. Hell, do you really think Button could have been WDC in anything but a the most dominant car? I expect RB and McLaren, in the dry for pre-quali practice to be very fast. My prediction for Quali….

1. Hamilton

2. Vetel

3. Webber

4. Button

5. Schumacher

6. Alonso

7. Rosberg

8. Massa

9. Hulkenberg

10. DiResta


Errr… need a re-think now?


I dont understand why every practice report mentions HRT yet no love for Glock/Marussia. 12th fastest in an untested car…story of the day in my book. Low fuel, rain, just friday..whatever the reason… beats the hell out of anything HRT did all day.


Good point, I’ve put that right


Well am reminded of that golden saying that states, a bad beginning is always a good recipe for a grand finale end more so since most drivers haven’t been able to set up their cars properly for the dry & a dry race is what the forecasts predict.

On the other hand, it makes a bloke happy to see the Kaiser has got his big joy back & what appears to be a car that is worthy of his talents, it’s the least he deserves for risk he took when he decided to make his comeback.

And the grid better be afraid – very afraid for a happy & feisty Schumi isn’t good news for the wannabes especially the babies such as baby Schumi.

Now from the looks of it, Red Bull & Mclaren have decided to keep their philosophies of going about things i.e. Mclaren running with empty tanks in FP1 while Red Bull with full tanks but this way of doing things may just backfire on Red Bull this season for I presume they no longer have their Q3 turbo charge button so if they not careful, they may get swallowed up by the pack.

Another driver who will not be happy with today’s turn of events is Jenson for I read that Jenson really depends on the Friday sessions to get his car properly set up & if it’s a wash out then he struggles like what happened in South Korea 2011.

Aah if the Ferrari’s sliding about this much, it doesn’t look like the tyres will last long, will be interesting to see what magic Alonso can pull out his hat with that beast.

As for Kimi, this is the second time am reading about the steering rake, he better get on top of that ASAP before his comeback turns into a nightmare as he gets lost in Grosjean’s exhaust fumes.

By some crazy coincidence I think HRT will make it on the grid, the blasted team always seems able to just scrap it through.

Alright, let the good times roll but am gonna have to get me self a pace maker for am not sure my dear heart can handle the pressure of qualifying tomorrow.


On another note, why were cars having scrutineers checking them minutes before practice? Surely that could have be done earlier, so that the teams are ready to go out when the pit lane opens. Seems a bit unfair.


Maybe we should have a competition and vote for the most easily avoidable “offs” of the year. But I fear Massa would win every nomination.


I think Massa is finished @ Ferrari – he was asking why he had spun today over the team radio – for some reason he didnt know he had dropped two wheels onto the wet grass – whats going on with him?


The tyres don’t go “off the cliff” anymore, but there is still a decent differential between the compounds?

Button will blitz-em on a one stopper, then?


The tyres might not drop off a cliff as suddenly as they used to, but will still ware out after about 20 laps.


Hi James saw you channel ten on Australia tv, nice to see you back at the grand prix. Off topic I know I was wondering I am heading to the Melbourne where would you suggest I watch the race? I was thinking turns 9 and 10 or 11 and 12


11 &12 is a very exciting fast chicane. 9 & 10 stand is nice. I like Turn 1


I wouldn’t read too much on FP2 times, weather was just not ideal for all-out qually lap as such most top teams opted to do long runs once the track dried up. At the same time long runs are difficult to read between teams with fuel loads so different.


We are finally here at this point, really exciting. James, thanks for the times, I am very happy to see Schumi at the top. I am about his age, so if we can do it, I will be more than happy!

Tifosi numero uno

I was trackside today, briiiiiiiliannt to have the season up and running. Little frustrating about the rain, cant wait for tomorrow for p3 and Quali.


Hi James,

I am here everyday-great site.

If you had to bet your money on one Team to win the Constructor 2012 award, which would that team be?




McLaren maybe?


That Schumacher is really showing potential; with time, he could really go places in motorsport. Kobayashi an early nominee for save of the year.


ha ha:)yeah!


You mean that young German with the giant chin, who replaced Bertrand Gachot? Oh, come on…! I predict it will be his one and only race for Jordan.


Nice 😀

Alonso’s save was pretty sharp too, hoping for a bit more of those conditions come Sunday…


do you really know who Schmacher is?


I think he’s DTM star Ralf Schumacher’s brother, but I’m not 100%.


James, are Kimi’s problems with the power steering similar to the ones Trulli had at (what was) Lotus.


This sounds more like a reliability problem rather than not being able to get sufficiant feeling from the Power Steering. The former problem requires the driver to sit around waiting for the system to be fixed, the latter just needs to be driven around whilst a new system is developed.


Scratch that, I’ve read on AUtosport Kimi saying that the power steering lacks precision and they hope to have a new design for Malaysia.

I understand that as the downforce goes up it’s harder to have the system keep the feeling going through to the steering wheel whilst also making it light enough to turn.

Grayzee (Australia)

Hmmm….day 1 over and we are still none the wiser……..thanks to the typical Melbourne weather!

Bring on tomorrow!



Please, is there any real issue behind “Power Steering” not working well for a particular driver, in this case Kimi??

Is it a related to the driver “feel” or steering “technicalities”?? Is the ‘steering’ setting easy to manage and change to suit driver’s likablity.

What could be the problem?? Thanks

Stone the crows

Yes it is about feel, not whether the steering is working or not. Kimi said today that the Lotus steering works well for some tracks but not for others.


From qualy results, evidently that should read “for some *drivers”


Also, hoping in future you can talk to F1 Engineers/Drivers etc and write an article about “Power Steering”+issues in F1 cars. Would be enlightening for us road car drivers.

Was waiting for Gary Anderson to explain the issues faced by Kimi Raikkonen & Lotus regarding F1 Power Steering, and why the issue has still not been solved. But he hasn’t touched the subject, so hoping you would. Thanks.


I’m curious if any team has tried an electric power steering. It might be lighter but from road cars I’ve heard that they lack feedback.

Stuart Houghton

I think it is fair to say that we will not know the true pace until the end of Q3, we will get a glimpse during FP3 but so many teams are sandbagging I can not bear the anticipation!

Merc clearly have made massive progress and just hope that when McLaren and RB empty the tanks and show their hands that Schuey and Nico are still in touch. A podium for Michael to start the year will make my purchase of Virgin TV well worth it. Very impressed with SKY coverage so far and the multi view/cameras look very promising.


James, I remember Schumacher and Irvine at Ferrari, in 1996.

The driving ability of Schumacher saw him out-perform Irvine completely. But as the car became quicker and it’s performance was easier to access, Irvine got closer to his pace.

Would you say this is evident between Alonso and Massa? It seems the less stable the car is, the more advantage a driver of Alonso’s ability has over his team-mate.


I think that may be almost the reason why he isn’t that good anymore. Back in the days, I suppose the sport was all about driving around weaknesses the cars had. And now it’s more about precision driving where cars are more “perfectly made” for drivers where the slightest driver error decides the winning and losing. So a guy like Jenson wouldn’t do so well back in the days, now it really fits his skill set. Not to give excuse, may be it just a different sport.

James, do you think that is the case?


You echo a comment made by Brundle in an article in MotorSport magazine.

He and Nigel Roebuck were discussing the difference between cars of the 80’s and the latest cars when he drove the Pirelli car for an BBC feature.

He was saying cars nowadays stick to the road and it is about precision, miss a braking point by 3metres and you have thrown the lap, whereas 20 years ago, losing 1/2 a second a lap wasn’t detrimental to the race. Also cars back then were more unreliable.

There are times in the last few years where the reliability is incredible. I believe alot of this is because apart from better manufacturing, the FIA has limited the scope that engine manufacturers can push forward. 18,000rpm limits? I remember BMW pushing the 20,000rpm limit back in the early 2000’s.

The only failures you hear of now is hydraulics and KERS failures.


I think the cream always rises to the top. Button would have done well in turbo days, knowing when to push and when to conserve tyres etc


In all honesty James, has Buttons performance since his move to Mclaren surprised you?

My respect for him has gone through the roof.

I’m aware of his driving style and his ability to nurse the tyres, but I’m still astounded by his performance against Mclarens boy, aka Lewis.


Yes it has. He’s just getting better and better. I also think F1 has moved towards him in terms of the cars and the tyres and how they interact. It suits his way of driving. But he has raised his game too


I think the same way, but today’s results don’t tell a lot, since Rosberg was far off Schumacher’s pace too and he surely isn’t that slow. Seems they just had different programmes. And at the same time the track was changing every minute. Maybe a team could find out something more by analyzing the engine sounds, to reveal weight and estimate gear ratios, by comparing the recorded revs with the own data, but there are just so many variables, all that results should be interpreted with care.

antonio sanchez

it’s always like this. The best drivers perform well in a difficult car, while the average ones, if the car is well set up, are as fast.

Comes to mind barrichello in the ferrari years. He was as fast as michael, because of all the work the team has done, to get the best car of the grid.

And montoya and ralf schumacher. When the car was perfect, ralf was a match for the colombian, otherwise not even close.


Expect to see Webber replacing Massa next year.


Very convivial chat between Domenicali and Webber in paddock on Thursday, which Horner joined. Depends on what Ferrari’s long term strategy is. Perez? I’m not sure.


I always thought that Rubens benefited from that when you compared his performance against Michael in comparison to Irvine.


THere are parallels, yes


Hi James,

Do you think we might see Raikkonen finish in the top 5 on Sunday?




Possible… if he gets his butt into the seat for a few practice laps. That certainly wouldn’t hurt his chances. Didn’t see much of Kimi today unfortunately. Lewis was a little quiet too.


I know Glock’s very good in the wet anyway, but considering its the first time ever that that Marussia has been driven in anger, 12th and only 3.5s off Schumacher is damned impressive.


Well said… and not even being mentioned… no news sites ive checked.. nor James Allen…nor the Speed commentators in the states…crazy. Granted its just friday…but come on…very cool.


That picture of Shumi is fantastic.


I did state a few posts back even if the Ferrari was not on par with the other top 3 cars alonso would be there or thereabouts regardless! that’s why i without a doubt state him as the best post Senna.


Completely agree


Ferrari will have great quali pace throughout the season, not sure about the entire race though. And Alonso is one of the very few drivers that can get the best of this Ferrari. So he will be fighting hard with everyone at the top in every race.


ehhh… what? Better check that crystal ball!

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