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David Coultard Calls Schumi a ‘Shadow of His Former Self’

David Coultard explaining one of the finer points of racing technique to Michael Schumacher

Former F1 driver (for the likes of McLaren, Williams and Red Bull), and now occasional columnist David Coultard has weighed in on Michael Schumacher’s comeback performance.  Coultard made no bones about it.  Regarding Schumacher’s race in Montreal last Sunday, Coultard wrote in his weekly Telegraph column, “[Michael] has won a record seven times on the Ile Notre-Dame but in all honesty he looked a shadow of his former self on Sunday.”

Coultard went on to say,  “He pitted three times and was still lapping over 4 seconds off the pace in his final stint. He just could not get his tyres working and in my view resorted to some pretty questionable racing in an effort to hold position. He was particularly fortunate to escape sanction for the late collision with Massa, his old protégé at Ferrari. The rules are clear: you cannot make two moves under braking. I’m not sure why they let him off. ”

Schhumacher and Coultard were rivals at one time (althought the Scot was never really in Schumi’s league), and they had a number of scraps together, a few of which ended in tears.  So one might think that Coultard’s opinion at this point might be taken with a grain of salt.  Coultard himself acknowledged this, but claimed that it hadn’t jaundiced his viewpoint.

“I’m not beating up on Michael,” he said. “We have had our differences in the past but I have tremendous respect for him. And I have consistently said we need to give him half a season before we judge his comeback. But with eight races gone and 11 to go, we are getting dangerously close to that tipping point.”

Coultard has long been critical of Schumacher for being overly aggressive on the track.  On at least one occasion, he was caught on camera giving Schumacher the single-fingered salute after the German treated him to a particularly banzai move on track.  Ironically, in his last season with Red Bull, Coultard himself drove as though he were in an amusement park bumper car race.

Meanwhile, Force India pilot, Tonio Liuzzi, has offered a dissenting opinion. Referring to his late race battle witih Schumacher, Italian wrote in his own column for ESPNF1 that he was able to make a late-race charge on Schumacher because the German’s super soft tires were completely shot, a fact which many of Schumacher’s critics have ignored.

Liuzzi went on to say, “Michael is always great to compete against and I think all the drivers can learn from him because he is always really professional. He’s not like some of the other drivers who just close the eyes, shut the door and crash into you. When I have raced against him he has always acted perfectly and I have absolutely no complaints.”

Admittedly, this would seem to be a minority opinion.  Schumacher is known for being ruthless on the track.  We saw a flash of his old brilliance in the last turn of the last lap at Monaco, when he made a lunge insude of a dozing Fernando Alonso.  The difference between then, i.e. when Schumacher was in his prime, and now, is that Schumi’s ruthlessness generally seemed to pay off.  At this juncture, however, the Schumacher style isn’t yielding exceptional results.

But the Formula 1 world takes no prisoners.  Credit is given for results, not for effort.  Schumacher’s comeback venture will only garner respect once he starts racking up points and destroying the competition.  Will it ever happen?  Stay tuned.

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