Last week Mercedes GP released an unusual statement to the effect that their star driver (or one of them) had been suffering from motion sickness whenever he used the team’s simulator for an extended period of time. This piece of information seemed to be on offer as at least a partial explanation for Schumacher’s troubled form during his comeback season.
As teams are banned from testing in-season, they now rely on virtual alternatives, i.e. simulators. The implication was that Schumi, prevented from real testing by the rules, and hampered in the virtual testing world by motion sickness, had been hobbled in his efforts to get up to speed. The team also indicated that Schumacher’s team mate, the younger Nico Rosberg, who presumably went through his teething years staring at video games, had no such difficulty with the technology. Like most young men of a certain age, Rosberg is as at home on a computer simulator as a beaver is in a dam.
Mercedes also allowed that their current simulator isn’t state of the art, with the implication that this had exacerbated the problem. A new sim is on the way, although there have been conflicting reports as to whether it will available this year or next. One wonders why they added this bit, for, while it might have aided Schumacher’s cause, it didn’t do much do much to enhance the Silver Arrows image in general.
One thing is certain: with simulators or without, Michael Schumacher has suffered in his bid to return to his old winning ways as a result of the testing ban. Schumacher was a religious tester, who went through a methodical process of testing, tweaking the car, developing the tires (he was Bridgestone’s primary test driver), and working with his engineers during non-race weeks to optimize their setups for the coming events. It was a rigorous schedule, but it paid dividends.
Those says are over. Testing is done on the fly, in several pre-season meetings, and then, during the season proper, only at the actual race venues during the free practice sessions. This is not an ideal situation for someone like Schumacher.
Judging from the German’s remarks, however, a simulator, now matter how state-of-the-art, might not be the ultimate answer. Schumacher recently told Telegraph Sport that his motion sickness wasn’t particularly unusual. “As far as I understand there are some other top teams that have a simulator but make very little use of it,” he said. “For us drivers the main benefit of them would be to get used to a track. But for me personally that has never been an issue. I don’t see the big advantage of them.”
Schumi also undercut the notion that his queasiness had been anything unusual among drivers, which is to say it didn’t put him at an undue disadvantage in a relative sense. “I think almost all the drivers that I know have had it [motion sickness],” Schumacher told Telegraph Sport. “When we had our first simulator at Ferrari I had exactly this feeling already so it’s nothing to do with age. People get used to it by going through certain processes.” So much for the new technology.