Bernie Ecclestone has been talking to the F1 website about Michael Schumacher’s return to the sport
“I would rather he had stopped as a seven-time world champion than stopping now,” Bernard said, “people new to the sport - people who have joined the F1 fan fraternity just recently - will remember Michael now, not as he was. They don’t see the hero that he was but the human that can fail. I think the important thing is - and this is probably difficult - to know when you can’t do what you used to do and then hand it over to somebody else.
So has Michael’s return been a mistake or not. We look at the pros and the cons, the FOR and AGAINST.
FOR:Michael Schumacher’s presence in F1 brought another World Champion back onto the grid. The most successful driver in the history of the sport returns - what a story. We had got very used to having just two or three Champs - Michael and Jacques, then Michael, Jacques and Mika, then Michael and Fernando. Now we had Michael, Fernando, Lewis, Jenson, plus Sebastian and then Kimi.
AGAINST: Although he was always a prodigious adjuster of any dial Ferrari cared to put on his steering wheel, in the three years he was away, the complexity of steering wheels grew. Sometimes he seemed to struggle with remembering everything and once was reminded over the radio by his engineer that he had his magic paddle latched.
FOR: In his final season he was regularly outqualifying Nico Rosberg and often got the better starts. A points scored comparison isn’t justified because Schumacher’s car was far more unreliable than Rosberg’s. (the way Mark Webber always seemed to pick up most of the Red Bull KERS issues).
AGAINST: Some of his racing judgements were poor. In his final season he had embarrassing accidents running into the back of Senna (in Barcelona) and Vergne (in Singapore), both of which he tried to cover up with excuses.
FOR:He scored a brilliant pole position in Monaco this season, a track where sheer horsepower and the aero package matter much less than driver ability. This was proof, if proof were needed, that the old Schumi could still turn it on.
AGAINST: He became a bit of a liability in practice sessions, displaying ‘old git’ tendencies by blocking or driving back onto the circuit in front of other cars (Lewis in Barcelona).
FOR:The BBC ran a feature on the 10 best sporting comebacks and the 10 worst. Michael Schumacher was high up in the worst column, but guess who won the best? Lance Armstrong… yeah, right.
AGAINST: He was widely expected to score podiums and wins for Mercedes and help them develop into a regular winning team - after all, with Brawn they were the World Champions in 2010. It didn’t happen, despite Michael getting front tyres that suited him better in his second season. In the first we were told that once he had this element in place, the success would start.
FOR: Michael is happiest driving an F1 car. He may not have delivered the same results he got in his first career, but that was a different era. His Ferrari success was built on a sequence of brilliant cars designed by Rory Byrne. It’s probably true to say that a fair few of the current F1 drivers given a Rory-Byrne designed Ferrari would have beaten him - at least Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel. His return to F1 was for the joy of driving, not to burnish his legend or add more trophies to the legendary Schumacher Trophy Wing of Schloss Schumi. He drove for three years, enjoyed himself, at the same time giving us a great point of reference for Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, who have taken the qualities of an F1 driver back up to the standard set by Ayrton Senna.
AGAINST: If he valued it, Michael’s place as the second or third best driver of all time behind Senna and Fangio is now in doubt. Some might say that he was able to dominate because he had the best car and could ask his team-mate to move over whenever he wanted to. Vettel may have had the fastest car in recent years but doesn’t get many/any gifts from Mark Webber. Alonso has that luxury, but then again Alonso has dominated Felipe Massa, a team-mate who was much closer to Michael when they were at Ferrari together.
Whatever the verdict is on Schumi’s return, it’s been good to have him back on the grid and retiring now is probably the best thing that could have happened. It’s never good when experienced drivers pick up reprimands and there was always the fear that he could have had a serious accident. The bouncing spring that hit Felipe’s helmet at the Hungaroring was a freak accident, but those kind of things happen.
The vignette of Schumi’s season I will treasure most is of his attempted block on Jenson Button at the USGP. A succession of cars had overtaken Michael and Jenson was up for it next and dived for the inside line heading down the start/finish straight toward Turn 1. But still Michael pushed him left, left, left, - swerving over the pitlane exit blend line to try and block him, all to no avail. Nobody else but Schumi would have bothered.
Coming Soon on Off on F1.com: Schumi’s Sekret Christmas Tageblog