By all accounts, Michael Schumacher’s GP2 test at Jerez was a success. Schumacher posted impressive lap times, and was able to put his body to the test of lateral G loading, something which no amount of physical training can adaquately simulate. Methodical as always, Schumacher had a doctor from the Bad-Nauheim sports clinic join him for the test.
“This [test] is not about whether the neck holds. About that I have no doubts,” Schumacher said in an ESPN report. Nevertheless, the German ace did admit to some pre-season neck strain after three days of testing.
“There is some minor muscular strain, but it’s completely normal,” he said. “There will be an acclimatisation phase when I sit in the real [F1] car at the beginning of February. In the past I have never managed to be able to train the muscles in the neck so that you feel nothing at all.”
Most F1 drivers feel initial neck strain when they return to racing after a winter layoff. One of the most strenuous aspects of F1 racing is the stress endured from lateral G-loading, which can be extreme. Drivers typically gain one to two inches in neck circumference during the course of a typical Formula 1 season, as neck muscles develop in response to G-loading.
Schumcher also brought his new Mercedes race engineer, Andy Shovlin, to the three-day test session. Shovlin was Jenson Button’s race engineer last year. Jock Clear, who last year ran Rubens Barrichello’s side of the Brawn garage, will be race engineer for Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg. Clear has previously handled race engineering duties for David Coultard (at Williams) and Jacques Villeneuve (both at Williams, and at BAR/Honda).
Schumacher made it clear in an interview that the purpose of the GP2 test was not only to give himself a physical tune-up, but also to have an opportunity to work with Shovlin in test conditions. Schumacher is renown for his technical skills, and forming a good working rapport with his engineer will be essential to his long term success.
Schumacher also revealed that, while he wore his familiar red helmet livery at the Jerez test, he will change the color-scheme for the 2010 season. The red helmet design, which became familiar to fans during much of Schumacher’s tenure at Ferrari, was initially adopted when Rubens Barrichello joined the Scuderia. Prior to that, Schumacher had worn a multi-colored deisgn which incorporated traditional German colors (red, yellow and black) in a horizontal band on a white background, with a starred blue crown. From a distance, however, the German’s helmet looked very similar to Barrichello’s, and obviously Schumacher was keen to distinguish himself from Ferrari’s number two – in more ways than one.
(Image source: AutoMoto TV)