Michael Schumacher has finally conceded that his advancing years have been a contributory factor in his off-colour and occasionally even humiliating return to F1 competition this season – but he still refuses to accept that he is no longer the same driver that swept to a record-breaking seven world championship crowns between 1994 and 2004.
For a 91-time grand prix-winner and a man who repeatedly re-wrote the history books during his 'first' career in the top flight from 1991 until 2006, thus far it has been a crushingly disappointing comeback for Schumacher with reigning double world champions Mercedes Grand Prix, however brave a face the German legend might try to put on it by insisting that he is firmly focussed now on 2011.
Not only have there been no podium finishes – and not even so much as a sniff of victory – but the Kerpen native has also found himself outscored 102 points to just 44 by young team-mate Nico Rosberg, and out-qualified by his distinctly lesser-paid compatriot a staggering eleven times to two in their internecine Teutonic duel.
“At the end of the day there are physics,” 'Schumi' is quoted as having said by the News of the World
, reflecting on his three-year absence from the grand prix grid since his 'retirement' at the end of 2006. “How can a 41-year-old be as good as a top-level 23 or 24-year-old?
“I have experience and a high level of speed, but if it is the same as in my high periods at Ferrari I don't think we will ever know. At Ferrari I had been working for ten years to make that level. This time I have been with a whole new team for just one year.”