While seven time champ has come in for a pasting recently by the F1 media, Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry has come to his defense. Schumacher jumped into a Merc cockpit after a three-year hiatus, at the grand old age of 41. He’s nearly a generation older than some of the youngsters on the grid, and while his comeback was greated with high expectations, his performance on the whole has been less than spectacular. He’s been outperformed, on balance, by his younger team mate, and fellow German, Nico Rosberg. But Fry insists that the judgments against Schumacher have been reckless.
“Michael has continued to improve and it’s been a fascinating experience inside the team to see the evolution of Michael,” Fry told Reuters recently. “Obviously he was a bit rusty when he started at the beginning of the year and every race he grows in confidence.”
The irony here, of course, is that Fry sounds as though he’s commenting on the performance of a promising rookie, rather than the most successful Formula 1 driver of all time.
But obviously, Fry takes an insider’s view of this situation. “The nice thing is how well [Michael has] fitted into the team,” Fry said. “I think we’ve got a very harmonious team attitude and approach and he’s contributing towards that. The guys absolutely love him and I’m optimistic for the future.”
Fry was also somewhat dumbfounded at the way the press rubbished Schumi’s performance at Montreal. “It’s not something I or any of us would subscribe to,” Fry said. “He’s been an absolutely fantastic team member, he and Nico (Rosberg) work very closely together, he pushes the team very hard and he’s a great influence on the team. We thought he drove a pretty good race (in Montreal) and I was somewhat surprised to hear that he got a bit of a pasting because that certainly wasn’t our view.”
Whether or not Schumacher fulfills his promise during his comeback has yet to be seen. A fair assumption, of course, is that his current contract with Mercedes will truly be his last. He’ll be 43 by the time he reaches the end of it, a truly ancient age for an F1 driver in this era. Still, the fact that he signed a three-year deal rather than a one-off shows that both he and the team have seen this as a long term endeavor from the start.