Having just announced his second retirement from F1, Michael Schumacher faces the unwelcome prospect of starting his final F1 Grand Prix of Japan in Suzuka from the back row, as the result of a combination of a disappointing qualifying performance and a ten-place grid penalty held over from his crash at Singapore two weeks ago.
Schumacher barely scraped through Q1 after leaving it late to venture out on track, and when he tried the same tactic in Q2 he ended up falling foul of slower traffic out on track thwarting his own flying lap attempt.
He particularly singled out an encounter at the hairpin with the McLaren
of Lewis Hamilton
- the man who will replace him at Mercedes in 2012 - for delaying him.
"The data showed that I lost two-tenths in turn 11 because of traffic, but I wasn't quite sure what Hamilton was doing ahead of me," he said. "Perhaps I could have made it through to Q3."
There was no indication that the incident would be referred to the race stewards for review, however, and Schumacher was focussed instead on looking on the bright side of his failure to get through to the final part of qualifying, pointing out: "I saved a lot of tyre sets and in that respect got the maximum out of the situation," he said.
Realistically, however, the seven-time former world champion admitted that the Mercedes just hadn't had the pace it needed to do well at Suzuka. "It was a shame that we couldn't do more today, after things hadn't looked too bad this morning, but we simply didn't get the performance together," he said.
Having finished in 13th place after Q2, Schumacher will now serve his ten-place grid penalty from Singapore which will mean he starts on the back row in 23rd place for tomorrow's Japanese Grand Prix.
"We need to wait and see what happens tomorrow - I will be certainly aiming for the best possible result, starting from the back of the grid," he said. "Although we should also say that, knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn't necessarily expect to look in great shape here," he added.
An underwhelming performance from Schumacher's team mate Nico Rosberg
who finished two spots further back on the Q2 timesheets confirmed that Suzuka just wasn't suiting the Mercedes car this year.