On the eve of the F1 2011 World Championship campaign – his second since making his much-feted comeback last year – Michael Schumacher has acknowledged that he is 'running out of excuses', but he is adamant that he has no reason to 'justify' his former glories and is confident of getting the better of team-mate Nico Rosberg over the balance of the forthcoming season.
Upon rejoining the competitive fray following three years of relative inactivity in 'retirement', much was anticipated of 'Schumi' in 2010 – but ultimately, very little was delivered. Granted, the Mercedes Grand Prix MGP W01 was far from the quickest car on the grid, but still, Rosberg dragged it to a trio of podium finishes and 142 points; Michael, not so much as a single rostrum appearance and barely half of that tally.
It was, indeed, one of the most one-sided internecine duels down the pit-lane, and for a driver far more used to utterly dominating his various team-mates during his record-breaking earlier career, it was a very rude wake-up call and a distinctly unwelcome dose of his own medicine.
Suddenly, the shoe was on the other foot, if you'll pardon the pun, and many were left wondering if, at the comparatively grand old age of 41 and now up against a whole host of competitive young whippersnappers, Schumacher still 'had it'. In 2011, he is determined to prove that he does.
“It's clear to me why 2010 didn't work out,” the German legend told Telegraph Sport
, “and it is clear to me why 2011 can work out, at least to be back on the podium consistently and, if things go very well, maybe to win a race. Mercedes has taken a huge step forward with this year's car. It is a very performance-orientated car and it has paid off, and the target remains the same – to win the world championship.”
Schumacher offered short shrift to the argument tabled by British racing hero Sir Stirling Moss earlier this month that his comeback was 'entirely wrong' and that he had been 'lucky' to achieve as much as he has done and indeed owes much of his success simply to having been in the right car at the right time [see separate story – click here
“Yes, I have been a very lucky person,” he retorts with more than a hint of sarcasm. “Honestly, I don't feel that I need to justify myself – I feel that my success speaks for itself. You can't always be lucky.”
Schumacher's supporters point to the seven-time F1 World Champion's upturn in form towards the latter end of 2010, and have been buoyed by the improvements seemingly brought to the initially uncompetitive MGP W02 during the final winter test in Barcelona, enabling Michael to set the fastest time of the week around the Circuit de Catalunya. He isn't finished yet, they contend, far from it – and he agrees.
Question marks remain over the calibre of the team – aside from 2009, lest we forget, there has been just a sole grand prix victory for the Brackley-based outfit, in its erstwhile guise as Honda and with Jenson Button at the Hungaroring back in 2006 – as well Schumacher's reaction times as age creeps up on him, with the revelation that he suffers from motion sickness in Mercedes' simulator, something of a disadvantage in an era in which testing is severely limited and the so-called 'Playstation Generation' have come to the fore.