Schumacher,right, knows an 8th title is out of reach. Photo: AP/Darron Cummings
Formula One’s most successful driver, Michael Schumacher, is again facing criticism following his disappointing result at last weekend’s Canadian grand Prix.
The German started in 13th position and finished outside of the points in 11th by race end, a performance which has brought out the knives in the media, with BBC commentator, Martin Brundle, describing it as Schumacher’s worst race since he came out of retirement, earlier this week.
It begs questions about whether the German great's reputation can survive if his performances fail to live up to media and public expectation. He certainly has nothing to prove, but Canada was a race in which he was expected to do better, especially since, despite poor qualifying form, his team-mate managed to finish in 6th place.
Schumacher cited issues with his car’s set up, the tire degradation, minor damage to the vehicle and specifically a puncture, all of which blighted his chances of moving up the grid order. He fought with Robert Kubica and Felipe Massa during the race, but the real insult was being overtaken by Vitantonio Luizzi, and Adrian Sutil, in the Force India cars on the last lap. Force India happened to be powered by Mercedes - if you’d forgotten - rubbing salt into Schumacher’s wounds from where his pride had received a bit of a blow.
A media siege on Schumacher is nothing new though and something he is used to. He is of course the sport’s most followed driver and any thoughts of Mercedes dumping the former champion are highly remote, given the amount of advertising and sponsorship revenue he likely generates.
Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry leapt to Schumacher’s defense earlier this week, expressing surprise that critics and F.1 pundits had drawn the conclusion they had. "He was in a good position until the puncture. But when something like that happens you get out of sequence…certainly from inside the team we see things in a totally different perspective.
"We don't really see any significant difference in performance between Nico Rosberg and Michael. One is getting the breaks and the other isn't at the moment.” UK’s Sun newspaper reported yesterday.
Comparing Rosberg and Schumacher is an interesting exercise. Nico Rosberg has 74 points from eight races and sits in 6th place in the Championship table, just 16 points behind Sebastian Vettel. Rosberg has visited the podium twice: he was third in Malaysia and third in China and has picked up points at every race except the Spanish Grand Prix, where he was 13th.
Schumacher on the other hand certainly has not had as much luck. We saw glimpses of the old Schumi’ at work in Monaco and baring the ensuing penalty, his overtaking maneuver on Fernando Alonso was brilliant. He sits 9th on the Championship table with 34 points from eight races, 33 points behind former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.
He has had one retirement in Malaysia thanks to a wheel nut problem and scored no points there or at Monaco and Canada. His best results have been two fourth places, at Spain and Turkey, and arguably his two worst races were in China and of course last weekend.
Is the public expectation too high or are the media critics too harsh on Schumacher? It was interesting to note Schumi's first season in the sport all the way back in 1991. He appeared in just 6 races, three of which he retired from, picking up just 4 points. Scroll ahead 10 years and in his 11th season in 2001, Schumacher is now master of the sport. 9 wins, two retirements and Championship winner with 123 points, with David Coulthard his nearest rival, on 65 points.
It’s pretty obvious that Schumacher has more work to do heading into the Valencia race next weekend, a track which he has not driven before. He indicated today that the car will have more upgrades for that race and if they don’t go backwards in that department, there is an opportunity for improvement.
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