Quotes attributed to a rather disappointed Michael Schumacher in the hours following the Turkish Grand Prix – where he finished 12th after an incident-filled race – have sparked a wave of speculation that the 42-year-old will call time on his three-year comeback at the end of the season.
Not so, says his Mercedes GP team, which has been quick to rally around the seven-time World Champion as the latest media frenzy starts to build. So where does fact and fancy begin to separate in this case? Let’s have a look…
After finishing the final practice session at Istanbul a promising second-fastest, Schumacher made the top-ten in qualifying for the first time this season, although he was disappointed to start from only eighth place.
He missed out on a points’ finish when he was forced to pit early after a collision with Vitaly Petrov that saw him needing a new front wing, and he finished out of the points after running out of sequence with the rest of the field.
F1 figures were quick to hint that Schumacher should hang up the helmet once again, but a closer look at his overall race pace showed it to be better than several drivers who actually finished in the top ten. His fastest race lap was only 1.4 seconds slower than Mark Webber’s best effort of the race.
The German made the comment that the race had failed to deliver the kind of “big joy” that he was hoping for, and this kick-started the rather worn-out suggestions that Schumacher was no longer enjoying his comeback and that Mercedes GP should look to replace him in the future.
BBC F1 commentator described Schumacher’s Turkey race as “uncomfortable to watch”, adding: “I think any dreams of a fairytale comeback are over.”
His co-commentator David Coulthard concurred: “He must be asking himself questions. You can’t hold back the clock [forever].”
However, Mercedes GP has been quick to throw its support behind its star driver, who trails team-mate Nico Rosberg with 6 points to his compatriot’s 20.
“When success is missing, then criticism is a fact of life. When a seven-time world champion like Michael Schumacher doesn’t achieve success, criticism rains down upon him,” remarked Mercedes competition boss Norbert Haug.
“I understand why: people expect the very highest level of performance from Michael and Mercedes, which is fully in line with our own targets.
“An analysis of Michael’s lap times from practice and the race in Istanbul shows that he had good pace. Without the contact on lap two, and the time he subsequently lost having the front wing changed, he was quick enough to finish in sixth or seventh position. That speed isn’t wishful thinking; it’s a fact. With that kind of potential, results will follow of their own accord.”
What are your thoughts on Schumacher’s comments? Has he been taken out of context, or should he pack it in? Post your comments below…
[Image via Formula1.com]
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