Whilst playing down expectations of being able to reprise his former title-vying form, record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher has nonetheless affirmed his conviction that Mercedes Grand Prix is 'clearly in a better situation' heading into 2011 than it was 2010 – a season that, he now reflects, was always going to be 'a compromise'.
In his much-hyped, eagerly-anticipated comeback campaign following three years away from the cut-and-thrust of top flight competition, to say that Schumacher flattered to deceive would be something of an understatement. Indeed, notching up barely half the points total tallied by team-mate Nico Rosberg, no podium finishes to his younger compatriot's three and being routinely outperformed both in qualifying and on race day, it was an embarrassing situation for the most successful driver in the sport's long history to find himself in – but he insists there were reasons.
“I was away for three years, and I'm no longer 25,” he told German magazine Auto Motor und Sport
. “There were a lot of changes – (former owner) Honda was gone and there wasn't the money to hold the team together. The car was a compromise and with the [Bridgestone] tyres, it was difficult for me to drive how I wanted to.
“In retrospect, there were things...my floor was burned because of the exhaust being too hot, or the F-duct working in places where it should not. There were many [issues], resulting from the fact that we were in a restructuring phase – but we still wanted to go for the title.”
In evidence of the problems that seemed to materialise predominantly on his MGP W01 rather than that of Rosberg, Schumacher pointed to Singapore – arguably the nadir of his season, in performance terms at least, with an uncharacteristically lowly 13th place at the chequered flag. That, too, he recalls, was not quite as straightforward as met the eye.
“A week later, I got the team's analysis,” the German legend revealed. “My team-mate and I were five degrees apart on the front wing. In F1, that's a world. At Spa, my F-duct didn't work, but I didn't say anything. At Suzuka it happened again, again a problem with my car but not with Nico's. I said to Norbert [Haug – Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President] and Ross [Brawn – team principal] that it was time for an explanation of the reasons. I prefer to speak inside the team, and I am convinced that in 2011 the problems will exist no more.”
Indeed, with stability having been largely restored now at the Brackley-based outfit and off the back of a far more encouraging conclusion to proceedings this year than the way it had begun, 'Schumi' is cautiously confident about his prospects for 2011, as he endeavours to make sure 2010 was the only
campaign in his F1 career that yielded not so much as a single podium finish – an outcome the 41-year-old is palpably in no rush to repeat.
“We are clearly in a better situation now because of the immense support from Mercedes,” he underlined in conclusion, “but we cannot presume to think that we will be fighting for the championship. We will make a big leap forward and, if all goes well, win races.”