Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Schumacher: Leaving on a high?

Michael Schumacher's tussle with John Eric Vergne on the opening lap of the Indian Grand Prix resulted in a puncture relegating him to the back of the field.  The team later retired the car so they can replace the gearbox ready for the race in Abu Dhabi without receiving a grid penalty.  This retirement was in keeping with the majority of the seven time world champion's miserable final season in Formula One and speaking after the race, he admits that he doesn't expect to go out on a high.

The clash that caused the puncture

The list of retirements he has suffered this year elongates further.  Following promising practice sessions and qualifying for the first race of the season in Australia, a gearbox problem put an end to his race.  After a lowly tenth place in Malaysia, a problem securing the front right wheel during a pit stop in China caused the second retirement of the season. A DRS problem in qualifying and a gearbox change meant a start from 22nd on the grid at Bahrain.  He finished tenth.  Following a vintage Schumi qualifying performance at Monaco, a fuel pressure problem meant another 'did not finish' result, then problems with DRS reared their ugly head again in Canada.

The European leg of the season saw a slight improvement in results.  Seeing him back on the podium to celebrate his third place in Valencia was an emotional moment as it where a driver of his stature belongs.  Silverstone and Hockenhiem both saw a seventh place finish, while a catalogue of errors by Michael, compounded by a lack of telemetry data reaching the team  forced another retirement in Hungary.  His beloved Spa saw him claim seventh in his 300th Grand Prix, then he went one better at Monza finishing in sixth.  Japan and South Korea saw another two consecutive non points finishes.

Back where he belongs.

The unreliability of the Mercedes' performance this season, together with his tangles with Bruno Senna in Barcelona and John Eric Vergne in Singapore have led to eight retirements this season and is surely not what Michael Schumacher was expecting when he made his comeback in 2010. Maybe not going out in a cloud of success on the track will make his second retirement easier to deal with.  Racing in Formula One and challenging for the top places  runs through his veins and any indicator that this could still be possible may make him regret his decision.

Schumacher's driver input has always been invaluable.

While he won't be leaving on a high regarding success on the track, his input behind the scenes is a different matter.  In an interview following the race in India, he was talking about doing his job  in helping the team develop the  car  ready for the 2013 season, which demonstrates true professionalism and dedication to the very end.  Some credit for any success achieved for Mercedes next year will without doubt have to be directed at the most successful Formula One driver ever.  Would the Mercedes even be where it is  now without the benefit of his knowledge and experience over the last three years?

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