Schumacher must win over the critics

If the jury is still out on Michael Schumacher's Formula One comeback with Mercedes, then the next two weekends of racing in Spain and Monaco may make a verdict easier to reach.

The seven-times world champion, returning at the age of 41 and after three years in retirement, has been outqualified and beaten in the first four races of the season by young fellow German Nico Rosberg.



In Australia in March the former Ferrari ace struggled to get past Toro Rosso's 20-year-old Spaniard Jaime Alguersuari, who was racing at the Melbourne track for the first time, and ended up 10th.



After Schumacher retired in Malaysia and then just scraped a point in China with another 10th-place finish, some commentators were ready to write him off even if others refused to rush to judgement.



"People are going to say he's past it now, which he probably is," declared former great Stirling Moss, now in his 80s and convalescing after a fall down a lift shaft at home, after the last race in Shanghai.



Schumacher will be using a different chassis in Barcelona this weekend, the one he had in pre-season testing, and the car's wheelbase has been extended to allow for better weight distribution.



The German has probably put in more miles at the Spanish circuit than anywhere else over the years and won there six times, including four in a row from 2001 to 2004, during his golden years with Ferrari and Benetton.



He has also won five times at Monaco, which follows immediately after Spain. If he fails to shine there against his team mate, with a car tailored to his requirements, the questions will become even more pointed.



"After Monaco, we'll know how his form really is," Red Bull's Australian driver Mark Webber told the BBC last week. "He'll feel a bit more at home at Barcelona and Monaco.



"They're the sort of places, particularly Monaco, where you just plug Michael in and off he goes. If he's not going to be doing that this year, you can say he might be having problems coming to grips with the car."



Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn, who was Schumacher's technical director at Ferrari when the German won five titles in a row and most of his 91 race victories, remains convinced that the car and tyres are the main problems.



"He's trying to find his references and is trying to work out how to approach things," the Briton told Reuters in an interview after returning from China.



"Undoubtedly these tyres are a bit different to what he's used to and maybe, with the car and the tyres, it's not towards the way he likes to have a car, which is very responsive and very sharp.



"We haven't been able to provide him with that yet. To remove any doubt, we are going to run a different car in Barcelona, a different chassis. As always in these circumstances you get rid of the variables."



Brawn said before the season started that he saw the same old Schumacher, determined and remarkably fit, and that is still the case even if the competition is intense.



"Our step forward in Barcelona will be bigger than you can make at each race during the flyaways (long-haul races) but it would not be realistic to expect us to suddenly be competing right at the front," cautioned Schumacher on his personal website (http://www.michael-schumacher.de).



"I am hoping for a better race in Barcelona than I had in China and of course I would not mind having had better results so far.



"However the good news is that after three years away, I am feeling extremely motivated. So I am clearly ready to take this challenge."



The team's own post-race analysis showed that the veteran was getting closer and closer to 24-year-old Rosberg in performance. China, the track that brought Schumacher his last win in 2006, may have been just a blip.



By lengthening the wheelbase of the Mercedes, the team should be able to hand Schumacher a car that allows him to show off his talent while also giving Rosberg more flexibility.



The concern however remains that in the past, and particularly when he was in his early years in F1 and shortly after his move to a then under-performing Ferrari, Schumacher's great attribute was his ability to drive around problems and make a poor car look good.



It could be that Rosberg has excelled in taking the Mercedes to two successive podium finishes, but it could also be that the car is not that bad either. In which case, the problem is Schumacher.



Retired triple champion Jackie Stewart, who worried before the season started about how Schumacher would handle adversity after enjoying top billing at Ferrari, said he still had faith in the German rekindling the old fires.



"The fat lady is a long way from singing," he told reporters at Silverstone last week.



"You are going to see (Red Bull's Sebastian) Vettel winning races, the same from Webber, the same from Schumacher when he gets his new car built around him.



"I don't think he will win world championships but I do think he will be on podiums and I think he could win a race this year," added the Scot.



News
people
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Sport
premier league
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
people'I hated him during those times'
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
News
i100
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
News
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam