Michael Schumacher could be the next silver-clad driver who takes a Mercedes to the top step of the podium.
His teammate Nico Rosberg dominated the Shanghai weekend and, at his 111th attempt, finally broke through with a maiden pole and win. The much-younger German also dominated Schumacher, the 43-year-old, at Mercedes in the last two years — ever since the seven time world champion returned to formula one in 2010.
But former Benetton and Ferrari title winner Schumacher appears much more on Rosberg’s pace this season, and in fact even solidly outqualified his 26-year-old teammate in Australia and Malaysia.
“It’s simple,” Schumacher told Brazil’s O Estado de S.Paulo. “The way I can drive this car is much more how I have driven a car throughout my whole life. If you look at my driving today and compare with ten years ago, not much has changed,” said the famous German. “But if you look at 2010 and 2011, my arms never stopped working.
“It wasn’t my way to drive,” insisted Schumacher.
Having followed Rosberg early in the Chinese grand prix – before his retirement – Schumacher admitted that he could not quite match the leading pace. But, despite not standing on a podium even once since his F1 comeback, he has now smelled that a victory is close.
“It will be the same feeling as when I went to the podium for the first time with Benetton, and Ferrari,” Schumacher predicted. “When I started with those teams, we were far away from being able to think about it. But after a lot of work, I would say years – just as now with Mercedes – we had reached the stage of being able to fight.
“Most people have no idea how many things need to be changed, how much effort and investment is required. At 43 I’m going through all of this again, but it’s because I really love what I do.”
Schumacher’s Mercedes contract expires at the end of this year.
“You might not believe it,” he responded, “but I’m so focused on developing this car that I don’t think about it. Later on in the season, of course, it’s inevitable.
“Of course it gives me great pleasure that we are starting to see the results of this great work. I am still perfectly capable of winning in Formula One,” Schumacher insisted.