Michael Schumacher has again spoken out to defend his choice to return to F1 in 2010 following a three-year absence from the grand prix grid – insisting that he has 'the right to do what I enjoy' and that regardless of whether he is putting at risk his illustrious reputation, he 'feels good' about coming back.
The bare statistics – just 72 points to Mercedes Grand Prix team-mate Nico Rosberg's 142, no podiums to his younger compatriot's three and finding himself routinely out-qualified and outraced by the man in the sister car – do not make for encouraging reading for the most successful driver in the sport's long history, but towards the end of the campaign, there were signs that Schumacher was beginning to get on top of his troubles and regain some semblance of his erstwhile all-conquering form.
That it has been a frustrating season – one that culminated in a lowly ninth spot in the final title standings – is beyond doubt, but despite 2010 having failed to even come close to fulfilling his expectations, the German legend insists he remains firmly committed to his comeback and is confident of brighter times ahead in 2011.
“I enjoy it,” 'Schumi' told CNN
. “I feel I have the right to do what I enjoy. Whether I put in dispute my reputation... I just feel good about my decision and I have so much support from people. It's certainly not as successful as I thought initially and many other people had thought – but I want to make it a successful return.
“I'm only happy if I'm back on the winning road with the team – this is what I'm working for; this is the joy of the passion for F1 – and having such a strong group and team behind, Mercedes pushing so hard, I have no doubt about success in the future.”
“It's been disappointing,” concurred the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Ross Brawn. “In overall performance, we haven't had the car [and] Michael's taken a little time to get up to the performance he'll be able to deliver. I've seen patches of that performance – the last few races of the season was the Michael Schumacher I expected to see – but now it's all coming together and I think next year we're going to have a really exciting time.”
Schumacher has received support, too, from fellow multiple F1 World Champion Alain Prost and Lotus Racing ace Heikki Kovalainen – both of whom underline that at 41 years of age now and following so long away from the cut-and-thrust of competitive action at the highest level, it was never going to be the most seamless of returns to begin with.
“People had high expectations, people expected him to win,” acknowledged Kovalainen, “but [Mercedes] didn't have a car to win and second of all, things have changed since he left F1.”
“For me, it is difficult, almost impossible to go back to [win] the title after three years,” added Prost, “but if there's one driver who would be able to do it, I think it's Michael.”