Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry is taking a realistic attitude in his evaluation of Michael Schumacher’s performance at mid-season. Fry has been publicly optimistic about Schumacher all along, assuring anyone who would listen that Schumi was a bit rusty, that everyone within the team was impressed by his efforts and skills, and that eventually all would come right with his performance.
However, after the recent race at Silverstone, at which Schumacher barely made the q3 qualifying session, and was lucky to finish in the points, Fry candidly said, “It is not coming together clearly. We have fits and starts and last weekend had some good points – like the second part of qualifying – but then the final part of qualifying was a bit disappointing. During the race there were points where we thought we could put in a better result here, but it didn’t quite work out at the end.”
Fry went on to temper this assessment with what amounts to faint praise: “Clearly everyone expects the best of Michael Schumacher because he is seven-time world champion, but on the other hand you’ve got to say he is still a top ten driver which, on a global scale, is pretty impressive.”
As for the future? As Fry told Autosport, “[Michael] is still learning and we have still got confidence in him and he has confidence in himself. So I am quite optimistic.”
So while Fry (and by implication, team principal Ross Brawn and Mercedes sporting exec Norbert Haug, as well) maintains his optimism, there is also the admission that things aren’t panning out quite as planned. Clearly all concerned are still acting on the assumptioin that Schumacher, with his innate gifts and extensive experience, will eventually pull things together and at the very least start delivering performances that are on a part with those of his younger team mate, Nico Rosberg. But if that never happens, the day will surely come when Fry, Brawn and Haug will be forced to rate Schumi just as they would a rookie just up from one of the feeder series.
It’s worth remembering that the Merc squad had been leaning towards hiring Nick Heidfeld to partner Rosberg, until Ross Brawn got the idea of giving Schumacher a call. I don’t think the team has yet reached the point of wishing they’d stuck to their original Plan A, instead of retaining Quick Nick as a reserve driver. But should that day arrive, the results won’t be pretty.