July 24th, 2010
03:10 PM ET

Was Schumacher's return a big mistake?

Schumacher has cut a gloomy figure for much of his comeback season in F1.
Schumacher has cut a gloomy figure for much of his comeback season in F1.

The alarm bells will no doubt be ringing loud and clear in Michael Schumacher’s helmet after another disappointing display in qualifying for his home grand prix.

Eleventh fastest would have simply been unacceptable for Schumacher in the past, but it is now becoming the norm.

Since his return to the racetrack for the 2010 season after a three-year hiatus, Schumacher has looked a shadow of his former seven-time world champion self and it's beginning to look like a big mistake.

After the first 10 races, the statistics paint a horrid picture.

Schumacher struggles as Vettel claims pole

Not a single podium finish, let alone a win, leaves Schumacher down in ninth in the drivers’ championship - 109 points off leader Lewis Hamilton.

It’s a statistic brought into sharp relief by this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, a race Schumacher once made his own, winning it four times - but now he's among the also rans.

Supporters will say that the plan was for the German to ease his way back into competitive action over the course of a three-year deal with Mercedes.

Yet one cannot help but be alarmed, and amazed, by Schumacher’s early struggles.

So the question is: whatever happened to the former Ferrari driver who won a record 91 races and 154 podium finishes? The machine who managed a remarkable 12 straight wins in 2004 on his way to another title?

Some say it is because he is driving an inferior car, and it's clear that the former Brawn GP team are now looking to next year to develop a winning combination.

But take a look at his teammate Nico Rosberg, who is having his best F1 season as he continues to outperform his vastly more experienced compatriot.

The 25-year-old Rosberg, sixth in the current overall standings, boasts a 54-point lead over Schumacher and has already recorded three podium finishes as well as regularly beating him in qualifying, as he did again in Germany.

So what is reason for Schumacher’s struggles ?

At 41, could age play a part? Surely not, especially when you consider Juan Manuel Fangio's famous win at the Nurburgring in 1957 which saw him win the last of his five world titles at the grand old age of 46.

Neither can fitness be an issue. Schumacher is a fitness junky who built much of his F1 legacy on being in peak condition.

Could it be the neck injury he suffered which stopped a dramatic return to Ferrari in 2009?

Perhaps. The weight of a driver’s helmet can multiply by up to factor five when cornering, and for that very reason the neck is the most vulnerable area.

Despite team doctors saying Schumacher’s neck has fully recovered, it is one thing getting over the injury physically and another psychologically.

But the greatest record-breaker of them all isn’t someone who ignores a challenge.

It would be foolish for anyone to completely rule out “Schuey” proving that class is permanent.

Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry, for one, has continued to rally behind him and remains confident that he will, given time, prove his doubters wrong.

And Fry may indeed be right. The iconic Schumacher we’ve become accustomed to may yet reappear and show everyone he is still a formidable racing driver.

As far as this season goes, only time - and nine more races - will tell.

Problem is, time is running out.

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Filed under:  Motorsport
soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. wildnature

    Yes he's return to formula 1 was a big mistake! It was made even bigger when he joined the Silver Arrows team. The car just cannot compete with the faster Redbulls, Mclarens or even Ferrari and for a man who has been on a long holiday, it doesn't help much. Nevertheless its been good to see him on the track snailing through the circuit.

    July 24, 2010 at 5:25 pm | Reply
  2. Love.Ari

    He is still the greatest !!
    It only takes some time to readjust ...

    good luck Schumacher

    July 24, 2010 at 5:49 pm | Reply
  3. Katzoja


    July 24, 2010 at 6:04 pm | Reply
  4. Bob Belgium

    I can still understand the author not knowing how to spell Nico Rosberg's name (though it does somewhat take away the legitimacy to write an article about an all time F1 hero), but using Manuel Fangio as an example why age could not play a role is so silly even a novice observer of the sport would not have made it. Comparing the physical requirements of today's F1 with that of more than 50 years ago is uterly ridiculous.

    July 24, 2010 at 6:40 pm | Reply
  5. f-kimi

    "At 41, could age play a part? Surely not, especially when you consider Juan Manuel Fangio's famous win at the Nurburgring in 1957 which saw him win the last of his five world titles at the grand old age of 46."
    41 is surely yes. Nico can beat him easily. Good bye mistaken Michael.

    July 24, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  6. Expert

    YES, the "comeback" was a mistake. He would have been the best ever, but now?

    July 24, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  7. nitendra

    the return of schumacher was anticipated with great expectations, however people have failed to realize the team he is driving, Mercedes in this case, is at its initial phase of F1 car development. And it takes sheer maturity for a racing driver of his caliber to accept defeat and yet look forward for a strong next season. it by no means has made a dent on his legendary racing career.

    schumacher will be the force to reckon with in the year 2012

    July 24, 2010 at 8:22 pm | Reply
  8. Seif El Batanouni

    I think if he still enjoys doing it then he's made the right choice.

    July 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  9. Frans Reitsma

    I am sure he will return to the podium. Getting to know another car and team for peak performance takes time. Motivating the team, amid the technical issues they have, requires special management drives from the Mercedes group to support him!!

    July 24, 2010 at 8:23 pm | Reply
  10. Hennie Jooste Jnr

    Mr. Walsh,

    I have read your article with some amusement because it is clear that you are merely a reporter or a supporter, but definitely not an expert. Your absolute fact less assessment of Michael Schumacher’s struggles on his return to formula 1, leads me to conclude that you are either extremely ignorant or plain stupid.

    One does not have to be an expert or engineer to understand the very basic – and very obvious – challenges that the whole Mercedes F1 team and then in particular Michael Schumacher, is currently facing. All you need is a set of eyes and very limited amount of common sense. However, in order to understand the requirements needed in order to succeed in formula 1, one needs basic knowledge of Formula 1 as a whole and not just of the individual aspects thereof.

    I would have tried to elaborate in a bit more detail on the obvious reasons for Mercedes’s struggles at this point, but I could not find the slightest indication from your article that you have the mental capability to understand these factors involved. But let me assure you, that even if a novice such as yourself could by some chance of sheer luck see the factors involved and even acknowledge them, very few would unreservedly understand them – let alone grasp the full extent to which even the most minuscule deviation can effect the total package that is required to be successful.

    In my humble yet honest opinion, any attempt to explain these critical factors to you, would be futile. The fact that that you are not an expert is not your own fault, however it does infuriate me when uninformed people write complete and utter garbage while trying to sound clever. Not only are you misguiding the readers and the public with fact less information, you contribute to culture of misinformation. I would suggest that you do some proper research and then start reporting on the facts as well as the true state of affairs on the subject in a transparent and above all, fair and balanced manner. This way you can educate your readers as well and people will start developing a culture of understanding and insight.

    Kind regards,


    July 24, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Reply
  11. Roberto Hoffmann

    German Nico Rosberg- I love CNN-Atenc.R.Hoffmann Brazil

    July 24, 2010 at 8:43 pm | Reply
  12. Tobias

    "The alarm bells will know doubt be ringing"

    => "will no doubt be ringing"

    "completely rule out “Schuey” proving"

    => It's "Schumi".

    You should double-check your sources and find someone proof-read your articles, Mr. Walsh.



    July 24, 2010 at 8:55 pm | Reply
  13. Ray


    July 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Reply
  14. Chris

    Article needs an editor.

    July 24, 2010 at 9:48 pm | Reply
  15. Dan

    If you look at the Q3 and Q2 times, Schumacher's time to finish 11 in qualifying in Germany was faster than Nico's Q3 time. He is still competitive, and it's been established the car isn't working underneath him. Heaven help us when he gets a car underneath him he can really drive.

    July 24, 2010 at 9:59 pm | Reply
  16. Andyvon

    When you're on top of your game there's only one way left to go – down! Schumacher definitely did the right thing when he got out while at the top. I'm just surprised he thought he could some back and do the same thing over again.

    July 24, 2010 at 10:33 pm | Reply
  17. Damien

    Was Schumacher's return a big mistake? -The biggest of his life

    July 24, 2010 at 11:07 pm | Reply
  18. Ade

    Just shows how an average driver can be transformed by an awesome car (Ferrari). Now he's in a regular car he's shown to be average

    July 24, 2010 at 11:29 pm | Reply
  19. Benedict

    No it is not a mistake,
    He is still a heck of a driver,
    It just so happens that their team is not that competitive.
    There are 3 Ms in racing,
    Machine and

    He is one of the best if not, the best driver in the world,
    but their team must become very competitive next season...

    July 25, 2010 at 1:02 am | Reply
  20. po

    why to rush? Enjoy what you are doing!

    July 25, 2010 at 1:52 am | Reply
  21. evanescent

    Let`s be patient till 2011\12 for the Legend has not said his last word yet.Why are we in a hurry to judge him.He`s just come out of retirement to race again,obviously he needs time to sort out things.

    July 25, 2010 at 2:05 am | Reply
  22. Cex Fable & Gas

    F1 as a sport is geared more towards a better car for results than towards a driver. The F1 life of Webber and Button are prime examples of what i am talking about.

    If Shumi needs to win then he needs a better car. Seemples!!!!

    July 25, 2010 at 2:09 am | Reply
  23. philip

    greatest, and not a word more
    how many fk won as much as him???

    can any body answer that??

    July 25, 2010 at 2:14 am | Reply
  24. jong

    he never should have came back in the first place... oh well, lets just hope he gets back on his toes soon...

    July 25, 2010 at 3:15 am | Reply
  25. Caxias

    Leave it to the media to climb all over themselves to write an obituary or exaggerate the negative. Losers. It's great that Schumacher is giving it another go. Instead of trying to analyse it and pass judgement, why not sit back and try to enjoy it?

    July 25, 2010 at 3:38 pm | Reply
  26. C.T.

    I think we need to give them some more time before we judge, let's see next season.
    He is still the best talented F1 driver in the world

    July 25, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Reply
  27. Ade

    Greatest Ever? No even he admitted Senna was the best ever

    July 25, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  28. It's Me

    Q2 on Saturday

    Rosberg – 1:15.018
    Schumacher – 1:15.026

    Everyone relax and give it some more time.

    July 26, 2010 at 2:41 am | Reply
  29. newpass

    Schumi is still one of the best drivers in the world.....remember Michael Jordan's first comeback in 1995. He lost the playoff in the first year of come back, but then he won 3 straight championships in the 1996-1998. Schumi just got back from a 3 year of retirement so its impossible for him to win the championship right away, im looking forward for 2011 season. i believe he will be able to win the whole thing.......just wait and see !!! Scumi will prove everyone is wrong, he will retire in 2012 at the top of the game and prove himself as a true legend !!!

    July 26, 2010 at 8:28 am | Reply
  30. RGA

    How quickly you forget what he did for Jordan, Bennetton and Ferarri.
    He spent time developing those rides before cashing the cheques.
    As long as there's a budget Schumacher will get every last drop of horse power out of his new car.
    I'd also be driving my socks off if I had MSC, a 7 time world champion, as team partner, it's just a matter of time before MSC gets the best out of that ride and relegates Nico the confirmed no.2 driver.
    Look what he did for Rubens Barrichello.
    It won't be long before his team is a serious threat to Red Bull, Ferarri and Mclaren.
    Motor racing is richer for having him rather on the track than off it and so is he no doubt.
    Comparing him to Fangio in age and or fitness is pretty niave, nothing more needs to be said.
    If he has an eye for spotting talent he would possibly start his own team.
    I think he'll go back to Ferarri when they can offer him a job with more control and seniority instead of being an overpaid onlooker.

    July 28, 2010 at 4:34 am | Reply
  31. Enny


    The car might be the problems that he faces it, surely it is the Mercedes, we do not know how it performs like a Bull does ? Statistics say that Brawns' genius formulations in car aerodynamics , engines had resulted success to Schumi's in the past. Many factors that can influence the performance of Schumi.

    July 31, 2010 at 12:38 am | Reply
  32. Precious Agbowo

    Coming back to the F1 does not make any sense considering the fact that he has been out for years with no experience still in him' so he should just 'BACK OFF'

    August 5, 2010 at 5:56 am | Reply
  33. Yob888

    Others are right!Shumi is an F1 hero,give him a chance.Let's enjoy watching him at the races.Good luck to everybody.

    August 12, 2010 at 8:24 pm | Reply
  34. brianmacza

    My personal view is that Michael is probably the best development driver there has ever been (he accepts that Senna wa sthe defacto 'driving god') as evidenbced in his actions at Benetton and Ferrari – he didn't spend enough time with Jordan to make a signicant difference.

    The team of Schumi and Brawn proved to be unbeatable, and I have every confidence that they will rise to the top again. It is quite likely that the limits imposed in terms of in-season testing have prevented any significant gains but I'm sure that behind-the-scenes development is taking place in wind tunnels and on test beds somewhere.

    F1 is a 'continuous improvement' environment, and the best dev team will always succeed. Red Bull has the best current interpretation of the rules, as Brawn was the best last year. Brawn now has a better develepment team than they had last year (not being critical of the current chamion, but his performance doesn't tend to show any particular inclination to development at all) so chances are good that next year will be far better.

    August 22, 2010 at 9:45 am | Reply
  35. Ridzal

    Not a mistake.
    Schumacher has always been consistent – close to robotic.
    They should tweak the car to respond to his mannerisms.
    Sort of like giving it a "Ferrari look and feel".
    That could make for a great team – something like Doc Holliday teamed up with Billy the Kid.
    That should put an interesting twist to F1 next season.

    November 28, 2010 at 6:08 am | Reply

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