A bloodied-but-unbowed Michael Schumacher may have taken more punches during his off-colour comeback in F1 2010 than he had suffered during the rest of his record-breaking career put together, but the German legend has rolled with them and is determined to come out fighting again in 2011 – insisting that an incredible eighth world championship crown either this year or the next remains his sole focus.
Schumacher returned to the sport he had once dominated last year to rapturous acclaim and sky-high expectations – and promptly fell flat on his face, struggling to get a handle on either the Mercedes Grand Prix MGP W01 or Bridgestone's Potenza tyres, and finding himself routinely out-qualified, outraced and outscored by rapid young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg as he himself mixed it in the distinctly unglamorous and unfamiliar surroundings of the midfield scrum and marked the first podium-less campaign of his illustrious grand prix career.
So off-form was the 91-time grand prix-winner, indeed, that many questioned whether or not 'Schumi' would be back in 2011 or would elect rather to simply admit that his comeback had been ill-advised and hang his F1 helmet up for a second time.
The 42-year-old is made of sterner stuff than that, however, and even if he is almost twice the age of many of his direct rivals, he is convinced that he can maintain the upward momentum that he evinced in the latter stages of 2010, banish the bitter disappointment of last year and take full advantage of an improved technical package to fight for another day come the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix curtain-raiser in March.
“Absolutely,” Schumacher fired back during an interview with F1 Racing
magazine, when asked if he expects to be world champion again. “We have a three-year project. Very clearly right now, we are not where we want to be, [but] we've put a lot of effort into coming back and we are optimistic we have a chance.
“In the history of F1, when does it ever happen that you come back straightaway from this level to win in just one year? Very rarely. I'm sure we can fight for wins this year, though, and we might be able to fight for the championship. I hope so.
“I'm here on a mission and I want to succeed. I want to perform, and I'm going to put 100 per cent into it. And if [the title] is not the case in 2011, then we will have to do it in the final year.”