Observers might have judged it a comparatively modest performance by his usual exactingly high standards, but record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher has insisted that he is 'very happy and proud' when he reflects on his return to competitive action in the 2010 curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir at the weekend – arguing that he never anticipated being able to simply 'drive circles around the others'.
That, of course, is precisely what Schumacher became famous for during his previous stint at the highest level between 1991 and 2006, and opinion was divided prior to his celebrated and much-hyped comeback with Mercedes Grand Prix this year as to whether at 41 years of age, the German legend would still be capable of doing so, and of picking up immediately from where he had left off.
Whilst there were admittedly not too many glimpses of the old 'Schumi' magic under the heat of the desert sun – as the 91-time grand prix-winner languished almost three tenths of a second shy of team-mate Nico Rosberg during qualifying and found himself pipped to the chequered flag by his young compatriot come race day too – it can conversely be argued that for a man who has not raced in anger for three years, what more could possibly have been expected?
Schumacher himself clearly seems content enough with his showing and the eight points that accompanied it for sixth place – and in truth, only a fool would write off a title challenge for the most successful and crowned driver in the sport's history.
“After my comeback race, I feel extremely well,” the Kerpen native told his personal website, having earlier this week opined that F1 is now 'easier' than it was when he was last on the grid [see separate story – click here
]. “With regards to the fitness, this race was not at all difficult for me and I was not exhausted at all. This is partly due to the fact that those tyres, in that heat, do not allow for more speed.
“All-in-all I have to say I am very, very happy and proud about how it went, considering I was completely out for three years and did not have a lot of driving for preparation. It would be strange to assume that I would come in, sit in the car and drive circles around the others – I, for my part, did not assume that in any case.
“What was nice was that I was very calm and relaxed prior to the race, as I was in former years. The only thing I did not manage to do this time was to sleep shortly before the start – the photos and the drivers' parade simply took too much time. I only came back to the garage very late, and we had to start the preparations to the race immediately.”