Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug have both confessed that the vastly-improved form evinced by multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher in recent races is just one of 'lots of reasons to be optimistic' at Mercedes Grand Prix looking to 2011.
If Singapore represented the unquestionable nadir of Schumacher's largely underwhelming return to top flight competition to-date – with the German legend taking the chequered flag a lowly 13th following an abject showing under the spotlights of the Far-Eastern city-state, prompting many pundits to muse that the end was nigh and that he would walk away from his three-year contract come season's end – then since then, the 91-time grand prix-winner has produced three of his most convincing performances of the campaign back-to-back.
Sixth in Japan, fourth in Korea and seventh in Brazil last time out, the 41-year-old has tallied more than a third of his points total of 72 in the last three outings alone – and in terms of race pace, he has been right up with young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg, a man who for much of the year has left him embarrassingly trailing. It is a turnaround, contends team principal Brawn, that proves that the most successful driver in the sport's long history is increasingly rediscovering his old brio and spark.
“We've seen little windows of performance with Michael, and those windows are becoming more frequent now,” the Englishman – who has long enjoyed a close working relationship with Schumacher – is quoted as having said by ITV-F1
. “I think in the last few races he's had particularly good races.
“We see these windows of performance, and they're coming together more frequently and in a more complete way. We can't pretend we're completely happy with this year overall, but there are lots of reasons to be optimistic for next season.”
Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Haug, similarly, is convinced that the 'Schumi' of old is on the verge of a comeback in 2011, pointing to the Kerpen native's superb turn-of-speed during qualifying at Interlagos last weekend – at one stage of which, he was right in the mix for pole position, and well ahead of Rosberg – and insisting that with a better car underneath him than the disappointing model the Stuttgart manufacturer gave him this year, he can once again shine.
“If you look into the detail you can see quite a few highlights,” the German underlined. “I saw Michael posting almost the fastest time [in qualifying in Brazil] – he was second-fastest, very close to Lewis Hamilton, and everyone was on intermediates.
“It's definitely going in the right direction, and I think if we build a better car then we will look better. If you're missing one per cent to the best, you are making up the numbers and are probably eighth or tenth. We just need to make a good step-up, and I'm absolutely convinced it's going to go in the right direction.”
As to the F1 2010 season finale in Abu Dhabi this weekend, meanwhile, both men are hoping for one final flourish at the end of a generally frustrating campaign by way of a seventh straight points-scoring finish to lift the team's spirits in preparation for 2011.