Michael Schumacher has warned against raising the bar of expectation too high for Mercedes Grand Prix in 2011 since 'we cannot take two steps at once' – and on the eve of this weekend's F1 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale, the German legend has insisted that concluding his comeback campaign without a podium finish to his name would not be the end of the world.
Schumacher's young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg, of course, has ascended the rostrum three times this year – albeit not since Silverstone back in the summer – whilst despite a trio of fourth places in Spain, Turkey and Korea, the most successful driver in the sport's history has not really even come close.
Should that remain the case post-Abu Dhabi – a circuit the Kerpen native has never previously driven – then it will mark the first season in the 41-year-old's long career at the highest level during which he has never finished inside the top three. Whilst he clearly hopes podiums will be the order of the day in 2011, despite Mercedes having abandoned development of its current challenger earlier than most in order to shift the focus onto its successor, 'Schumi' cautions not to expect too much from the team, too soon.
“I do not need a podium [in 2010], but of course I would prefer to have one,” he told German newspaper Kleine Zeitung
. “We began with our new car earlier than some other teams, which is an advantage, but we shouldn't expect any miracles – we cannot take two steps at once. We are, after all, a smaller team than the big ones, so we have slightly less capacity.
“We had quite an encouraging weekend in São Paulo – even if it did not show too much to the outside – as our pace in qualifying and the race was satisfying. The final race weekend in Abu Dhabi will be exciting for me as I will be driving this impressive circuit for the first time. Obviously the main focus of the fans and the media will be on the championship fight, so we will be able to work calmly and concentrate on our own weekend. I'm sure that everyone in the team is motivated to deliver a good last performance of the season.”
Rosberg's principal motivation this weekend, meanwhile, will assuredly be on staying ahead of Renault F1 rival Robert Kubica, whom he leapfrogged into seventh spot in the drivers' standings by dint of taking the chequered flag sixth at Interlagos last weekend – and if he can outscore Ferrari's Felipe Massa by the 14 points he needs to overhaul the Brazilian for P6 into the bargain, all the better. The 25-year-old both started and finished ninth for Williams in Abu Dhabi last year.
“I really enjoyed our first visit to the Yas Marina Circuit at the end of last season,” enthused the son of 1982 F1 World Champion Keke Rosberg. “The track is interesting to drive, with a unique layout with the unusual pit-lane exit and the day/night programme makes a change from the usual format of a race weekend. It was good to be back in the points in Brazil last Sunday, and we hope to finish the season with another good result here before looking ahead to next season which will definitely be stronger for us.”