Reality catches up with Schumacher

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 May, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 May, 2011, 12:00am


This column normally is very happy to be proven right, but there is one subject where it would have been nice to have got it wrong. I've long argued that Michael Schumacher's return to the sport he dominated for so long was a mistake. Now it's beginning to sound like the German is beginning to agree.

Another poor performance in Turkey, littered with mistakes, moved Schumacher to muse to reporters that 'the big joy is not there right now'. You may wonder why a man who has been crowned world champion seven times is struggling so badly and employing such poor judgment during a race.

For the majority of his career, Schumacher has been at the front, in the best car and benefiting from team orders. None of that applies now. He's frankly been a menace when defending positions and you have to wonder if it's because he's just not been that used to doing it.

There has been a lot of speculation the legendary German will not be racing next season. But as we head to Spain this weekend, either Schumacher started to get out of bed on the right side or Mercedes' PR machine has cranked up. All of a sudden he's raring to go again, telling the media: 'While I was not happy with my weekend in Turkey, there have been clear signs of improvements for us as a team, which obviously push and reboost my motivation even more.' We will see.

There's no pleasing some people in Formula One. The Turkish Grand Prix had the most overtaking in a race that anyone could remember. It also had 80-odd pit stops. It might have been a bit confusing to work out who was where at the back of the field, but it was very exciting with action everywhere.

However, some commentators are saying it's all too easy to get past somebody, and the new rules have taken away the 'purity' of the sport. If by purity they mean being stuck behind the car in front for lap after lap, then I can't say I'm too bothered.

It would seem I'm not alone, as viewing figures have gone up this season. It's notoriously hard to measure the amount of people watching F1 and other sports across Asia, but I imagine it's broadly in line with what the BBC has found in Britain. Their audience research has found that many more are tuning in compared to last season, and more intriguingly they are watching for the whole race rather than the first five minutes and the last five minutes. That has to mean they are finding the whole spectacle exciting.

Interestingly, the increased overtaking over the whole race means the first lap dives for position are not happening. The driver of the safety car must be sneaking in a crossword or two on race day, there's been so little to do.

Most drivers have backed the changes, especially the rear wing DRS system. People like Fernando Alonso suggest the adjustable wing isn't the major factor in the overtaking, rather the speed at which people's tyres degrade.

It will be interesting to see whether the new rules serve up a treat in Spain, which isn't always the most gripping race on the calendar. The only downside seems to be trying to keep people at the track and at home watching on telly up to date on what exactly is going on. Pity the commentators.

You can tell that the Concorde Agreement, which sets out the terms of the sport, is coming near to having to be renewed because the silly season seems to have just started. Expect a steady stream of bold statements from the teams, Bernie Ecclestone et al as the major stakeholders start to jockey for position.

Some of the opening shots have come from the Ferrari boss who has said he hasn't ruled out a breakaway championship. Expect to hear more posturing in the months to come as the big players take their seats around the poker table looking to bluff their way to a bigger share of the pot.