Certain paddock skeptics have wondered if Michael Schumacher will be able to match his previous standard of performance when he returns to Formula 1 this year, as the oldest driver in the series. He’ll be 41 when he takes his place on the grid.
Former F1 champ Nigel Mansell rejects the idea, however, that Schumacher will be hampered at all by his age. “I don’t think age will be a problem,” Mansell told Autosport magazine. “Don’t forget I was knocking on 40 when I won the world championship in 1992 and I would have been good for a few more years. It was just that the politics beat me up too much.”
Aside from his natural gifts and work ethic, Mansell pointed out that Schumi will be reunited with his old team maestro, Ross Brawn, who masterminded the German ace’s previous seven world titles. Together, Schumacher and Brawn were a world-beating, magic combination. Not only was their combined racecraft often invincible, their aggregate development skills helped make the Ferrari package virtually unbeatable for several years running.
“He has been presented with a wonderful opportunity,” said Mansell. “He’s back with Ross Brawn and with the team that has just won both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships. If the package is right, there will be no problems with motivation. Ross is such a brilliant guy that I’m sure Michael will have one of the best cars.”
Mansell also acknowledged that while younger, less experienced drivers might falter when things aren’t going well, Schumcher’s experience, focus, drive and determination would all stand him in good stead if the team encountered unexpected teething issues or speed bumps. “If things go a little wrong, there can be commitment issues,” Mansell said, “but I don’t see that happening with Michael.”
Mansell rejected the idea that Schumacher was at risk of damaging his reputation at all by making a comeback. “He’s in a win-win situation and it’s good for Formula 1,” said Mansell. “For me there is no downside to this. He’s won enough titles, so what does he have to worry about losing to anyone? It may take a few races to get to grips with his car, but after that it wouldn’t surprise me if he was to challenge for his eighth title.”