As he continues to defy his critics and those who are already pensioning him off into the realms of retirement once more, Michael Schumacher has argued that 'nothing is missing' at Mercedes Grand Prix in F1 2011 and that 'all the ingredients for success are here' - stressing that 'good things come to those who wait'.

Schumacher's desultory performance in the Turkish Grand Prix in Istanbul earlier this month - needlessly turning in on Lotus Renault GP rival Vitaly Petrov and causing a collision that resulted in an eventual twelfth-place finish, some seven spots behind team-mate Nico Rosberg - led to many of his detractors again questioning whether the most successful driver in the history of the sport will elect to simply walk away come season's end.

The bare statistics - no qualifying position higher than fifth and no finishing position higher than fourth from the 24 races since he made his F1 comeback at the beginning of last season - admittedly hardly make for encouraging reading, and there can be little doubt that 'Schumi' has been routinely and comprehensively outperformed by his younger countryman over in the other side of the Mercedes garage.

The man himself, though, remains adamant that he will rediscover his erstwhile glories - and a feisty drive in last weekend's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona was inarguably his finest of the 2011 campaign to-date. His burning motivation, he reveals, is an unflinching belief that Mercedes is on the right path and will ultimately achieve the same kind of success as Red Bull Racing is enjoying at present.

"Probably last year I wasn't where I wanted to be, but this year I would say nothing is missing," the German legend told the official F1 website. "All the ingredients for success are here - we now have to arrange and optimise them. Then we will be on the go, just like Red Bull is now. I know we will do it.

"Of course we would have wanted faster development - and a faster swing onto victory lane - after Ross [Brawn - team principal] won both titles in 2009, but that was the exception to the rule. I have been racing long enough to understand that it takes at least three years to push a team to the very top, and I know that good things come to those who wait. I am absolutely sure we are on the right track, and that we are doing all we can to be successful in the end.

"I am aware that there are many out there mouthing off about me, but I have been in the business long enough to know what is really important - to stay calm and work in a goal-oriented way on what we want to achieve. In reality, everything happens so quickly in F1. You have to free your mind and not ponder what might have been. It is useless to look back. You have to concentrate all your energy on your goals."

It was the 'what might have been' in Turkey, indeed, that resuscitated many of the rumours about impending retirement for the seven-time F1 World Champion, after he confessed post-race that 'the big joy is not there right now' [see separate story - click here] - but Schumacher has since reasoned that he was merely alluding to his disappointment that without his incident with Petrov, he would likely have taken the chequered flag half-a-dozen places higher up the order in Istanbul.

What's more, despite the fact that he has been out-qualified by Rosberg in every race thus far this year - and sometimes by a substantial margin - the 91-time grand prix-winner insists he 'doesn't think' the younger of the two Germans has an edge over him, pointing to 'issues' with his own car that have masked his true potential. In an interview with BBC Sport, he went on to reveal that he 'didn't read' the media speculation about his future - and that he remains fully committed to pursuing his F1 objectives.

"I am not concerned," he underlined. "I am pretty relaxed. I know the headlines and stories that have been made up, [but] I'm just focussed on getting closer to where we want to be. I just go my own way, and part of that is not looking into it too much and just focussing on the reality - and the reality is we are developing the car and we are getting closer to where we want to be, and I'm sure soon we will be on the podium.

"I see it partly as a compliment that people pay so much interest to how my performances are going, and I have no doubt things will come to a normal stage. I have made a lot of media quite happy with my return, and I make a lot of media happy if I [have] a race like in Istanbul. I want to be where I am [in F1]."

One concession Schumacher does make, however, is that he is probably no longer as fast as he was when he was at the absolute peak of his powers during his original F1 career - but he can, he asserts, now compensate in other ways.

"I am pretty sure I explore my absolute max potential, maybe even better because I have more experience," he opined. "Am I as good as I was at 25? I don't think so. I cannot be as good, but I can maybe be better in other areas. Is the compromise as good as what I used to be? Who knows? We'll find out. I'll tell you later..."

In the face of all the criticism he has received since rejoining the competitive fray 14 months ago, one man who has resolutely stood by Schumacher is Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Vice-President Norbert Haug, and the 58-year-old's faith in his driver remains absolutely undimmed.

"We have built our team around new and revolutionary efficiency parameters, so we - and our millions of fans - still need to be a bit more patient," he told the official F1 website, cautioning that 'every attempt to define the timeframe [for sustained success] would be dubious'. "In the long run, I know that we will profit hugely from our ideas and concepts. There is enough knowhow in the team - and there is no lack of good advice coming from all kinds of bystanders!

"[The Mercedes/Schumacher partnership will last] a very long time. In 1993, we had the chance to sign him with Sauber, as he was one of our successful Mercedes Junior drivers - but Michael was too good for us at that time. Only two years later, he won the world championship with Benetton and moved to Ferrari in 1996, but it was always in the back of our minds to work together one day.

"You know what real friendship is when it's getting tough and you still stand by each other. It would be completely counter-productive if we hit each other on the head instead of sticking them together to find solutions. We'd much rather criticise each other constructively. I promise that we will make a really good story happen at our first victory party, so be patient - and stay tuned."

"We have both been in F1 for 20-odd years and have known each other for 25 years," concurred Schumacher. "We are both real fighters with a huge amount of F1 experience to know that success is teamwork and bolstering each other. In the word 'together' lies the secret to success, so we will stick it out through thick-and-thin. I've gone through this before with Ferrari, and in tough times we got strong together. That's when you know if the friendship is more than skin-deep.

"Let's all look ahead. I have found my way back home to Mercedes, where it all started for me. Now, we want to work together and build something fundamental. Mercedes played a major role in getting me into F1, and I want to pay back as much as I can. The best way would be with victories."



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