M ichael Schumacher has already noticed: That is a different Formula 1 than in 2006, when he fought for the world title with Fernando Alonso up to the final. A lot has happened in three years. The cars have totally changed their characteristics. The tires have mutated from super glue to an everyday product. And his team doesn't have a winning car at the moment.
But the opponents have a different quality today too. It is the kart generation for which the ex-champion was the great role model. The best trained and how Schumacher grew up on four wheels since the age of six. The 251-time GP veteran is driving for the first time against twelve of his rivals.
For example Jaime Alguersuari. The 20-year-old Spaniard has now made it into the Bild newspaper. Because he drove cheekily in front of the superstar for 38 laps in his Toro Rosso. Only a brake on turn 13 on lap 53 brought Schumacher past the youngest GP participant in the field. 'The Toro Rosso was on the straight too fast for me ', apologized the Mercedes driver.
But Schumacher showed Alguersuari's resistance: Nobody here has any more respect for big names. Four years ago, drivers in the Alguersuaris price range would have flinched if they had seen the bright red helmet in the rearview mirror. Today she is motivated to show the 41-year-old racing legend. Timo Glock also knew no mercy when Schumacher pressed past him with a late braking. The Virgin pilot countered ice cold.
The fact that Schumacher slipped into the abyss of the field at all was due to an involuntary starting collision. Jenson Button pushed Fernando Alonso's Ferrari into the German's Mercedes. After that, the front wing was crooked. It had to be swapped at the end of the first lap. It's a shame for Schumacher that it was still too wet for dry tires. It was good for him that the safety car slowed down the field and that he immediately caught up at the rear. After the race was approved, the old master immediately showed his old killer instinct. He fought his way up to 13th place within ten laps. Until he queued at Alguersuari's Toro Rosso.
That was the race for Schumacher. When he finally passed his Spanish opponent, he only had five laps to fight his way to tenth place, which would earn at least one World Championship point. Inon the 57th of 58 rounds he defeated his archenemy Pedro de la Rosa. After an early tire change on lap 8, the Spaniard drove on totally worn tires with his back to the wall. 'I just slipped around and couldn't counter Michael,' said the Sauber driver regretfully.
Schumacher marked the fourth fastest lap in the few free laps he had left. In the penultimate round. Team mate Nico Rosberg was even second fastest. To conclude from this that Mercedes GP has made great strides, however, would be a fallacy. The fastest race laps say little about the actual balance of power, because the top four drivers ended up with very old tires. The ranking list of the fastest race laps shows that there are drivers from first to fifth who have changed tires twice.
The course of the race clearly showed where the weakness of the Silver Arrows still lies . The car is putting too much strain on the tires. As in Bahrain, it was the rear rollers again. When Lewis Hamilton, Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg pitted together for the second tire change, they were still close together. Rosberg was able to follow the McLaren and the Red Bull for a few laps. Then there was an eight-second gap. Rosberg only came up again because Hamilton and Webber were eventually slowed down by the Kubica-Massa-Alonso combat group. And he benefited from the fact that Webber won the McLaren from Hamilton when it tried to slow down Alonso.
Nevertheless, it would have been interesting what the Mercedes drivers would have achieved in a normal race. It is possible that only with Schumacher the result would have been significantly better. In the race, the Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren are still too strong for the Mercedes GP. One lap in training saw a significant increase. Since Rosberg and Schumacher were beaten below value.
The strong training performance was also due to the type of track and the cool temperatures on Saturday. In the short curve radii, understeer brakes less than in long curves. And low temperatures help a tire that is heavily used by the vehicle. Under the conditions, Malaysia will be a tough test for the Mercedes drivers. Sepang's turns are long and fast, and the thermometer never drops below 30 degrees.