Mark Webber has poured cold water upon Michael Schumacher's impressive recent testing pace for Mercedes Grand Prix at Jerez, suggesting the German legend's eye-catching lap times were 'probably just a little show for Germany' and not representative of his true form heading into the F1 2011 campaign.
Following on from a difficult first test in Valencia earlier this month – when the new Mercedes MGP W02 proved to be neither particularly fast nor reliable – the Brackley-based outfit on the face of things made a quantum leap forward when the action shifted further south in Spain last week, with Schumacher pacing the field on day two and lapping a close third-quickest on day three with Pirelli's super-soft rubber to close out the test with the best time of any of the 24 drivers in attendance.
However, given that team-mate Nico Rosberg struggled to reach the same kind of lap times during his two days in the cockpit and that 'Schumi' himself has admitted to being 'slightly concerned' at the car's lack of speed [see separate story – click here
], Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber wonders if the Jerez performance was in truth little more than a publicity stunt to try to ease the mounting pressure on the team.
“It was probably just a little show for Germany,” the Australian mused. “The super-soft tyre is much faster, but they only last for one lap – [and after his fast lap] he was immediately two seconds off the pace once again.”
“I was on a ten-lap run, so I don't know if you can call that very short,” countered Schumacher, dismissing suggestions that he had barely a thimble-full of fuel in his car at the time. “It is also true that we are not the only team to have tried these tyres.”
Schumacher's former team-mate Felipe Massa, however, has sprung to the seven-time world champion's defence, insisting that it is 'not news' that he was so quick since 'he's won more than any of us' – but still speculation persists that the times set by the 42-year-old as well as the headline-stealing efforts of Nick Heidfeld on his testing debut for Lotus Renault GP and Rubens Barrichello for cash-strapped Williams were more about showboating to sponsors than any indicator of genuine potential.
Lotus Renault GP needs to placate its financial backers in the wake of Robert Kubica's rallying accident, whilst Williams is set to float on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange early next month.
“There are big differences between the different types of tyres,” conceded 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button, with Lotus Renault GP reserve driver Bruno Senna – who tested on Sunday at Jerez – assessing the difference between the hard compound and the super-soft to be in the region of 1.5 to 1.7 seconds.