Archive for the ‘Schumacher’ Category

Despite Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali’s suggestion last month that Michael Schumacher’s experience with slick tyres could be very useful to the team as they prepare their challenge for 2009, I see that Michael Schumacher said recently that he will not be driving the new F60.

Schumacher, who turned 40 last month, has been a consultant to Ferrari ever since his retirement as a driver in 2006. He has driven as a super-tester on several occasions since then, but with restrictions on testing so severe now, he has decided that the work should be left to the race drivers.

Schuey, who has yet to define his role with the team for 2009, told the Koln Express, the local paper of Cologne, near his home town “The winter tests are very important. Especially given the ban during the season. It’s a preparation for the whole season. As I see it, it’s up to the race drivers to do the work, not testers. I’m speaking to Ferrari at the moment to see whether they see it the same way.”

It’s amazing to think just how different this situation is from when Michael was driving. In the late 1990s and early 2000s he spent over 200 days away from home in a year, with promotional activities, races and tests. The testing element of it was huge, often up to 20 days before the start of the season, and then two or three days in every week following a Grand Prix.

Ferrari committed a lot to testing because they had a special budget from Bridgestone, rumoured to be around £20 million per season, to carry out tyre development tests. Of course they would test all manner of new things on the car at the same time. It was quite a big advantage to have budget, two test tracks (Fiorano and Mugello) and unlimited test days.

It’s one of the reasons McLaren invested so heavily in simulation technology in the early 2000s, because they did not have the same luxury with testing as Ferrari. Now that investment is paying off massively as they are miles ahead and it’s Ferrari who are playing catch up in that area.

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Going to the next level

This year’s world championship has featured some extraordinary races and great drama. The endings of the races at Spa and Interlagos were among the most dramatic ever and the standard of the driving from Massa and Hamilton has been very high. But both have had error strewn campaigns.

If you imagine what would have happened this year had Michael Schumacher been driving the Ferrari or Fernando Alonso the McLaren, you realise that the title would have been wrapped up comfortably by either man against the two title contenders we actually had. Of course Schumacher would not have been able to do anything about the engine failure Massa suffered in Hungary, or the refuelling disaster in Singapore (probably), which really robbed Massa of the title, but he’d have closed out other opportunities, where Massa came up short, like Hockenheim or Shanghai or Montreal.

The reason is that Schumacher and, to a lesser extent Alonso, are both drivers who give almost nothing away to their opposition. They are relentless and they never give a sniff of an opportunity if they can help it. Raikkonen does not fall into this category in my book, despite winning the title last year, he gave a lot of gifts to his opposition along the way.

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