Michael Schumacher’s Formula 1 comeback hasn’t yet set the world alight, and some critics have suggested he’s over the hill, but Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry has rubbished the idea that the German ace is past it.
Schumacher is rejoining the fray after a three year absence, and he’s doing so in a year when four teams, and eight drivers, are all showing rough parity of performance.
There are four current or past champions in the field, which shows a depth of quality that hasn’t existed for a while, so it’s perhaps to be expected that it’s taking a bit of time for Schuamcher to get fully up to speed vis a vis his rivals.
Thus far, Schumacher has been out qualified and out raced by his team mate in the first three racaes of the season, something that has never happened to him before.
Nick Fry, however, has urged Schumacher fans to be patient. Fry recently told the BBC, “Every race Michael is learning a bit more and it is all coming together.”
This might sound like an excuse made for a struggling rookie, but that’s far from the truth in this case. Fry went on to say, “Michael is, for me, quite remarkable. The level of feedback he gives is something that I have never seen before, and is just not in the debriefs. When you have the headphones on you hear amazing things. In qualifying he was driving around almost giving a commentary.”
Clearly, Schumi’s old cohort from Benetton and Ferrari, Ross Brawn, didn’t hire him just for his speed. He also brought him to Mercedes for his experience and technical expertise. For, while Schumacher’s team mate Nico Rosberg was highly rated by Brawn and Fry for sheer driving ability, clearly they also wanted a driver who would help them push car developments forward.
Under the current rules, which ban in-season testing, it’s critical to have a driver who can maximize track time on race weekends for testing purposes, as well as ordinary race prep. Schumacher is a master in this respect, perhaps rivaled on a technical level during the span of his own career only by Ayrton Senna.
Nick Fry went on to say that anyone who dismisses Schumacher as a competitive rival during the remainder of the season does so at their own peril. Fry reckons the German pilot will always be a force to be reckoned with. Fry said after the Malaysian Grand Prix, during which Schumacher suffered a retirement, “He has taken the disappointment of what happened in Malaysia very well. He has taken away the positives again. I would not underestimate him.”
It’s very likely that we’ll see an upward trend in the performance curve of both Mercedes drivers as the year progresses.