• Former champion determined to overcome comeback struggles
• Mark Webber plays down Red Bull rift with Sebastian Vettel
Michael Schumacher will stay in Formula One next season despite struggling during his comeback after three years in retirement. When asked to confirm whether he will race for Mercedes in 2011 the seven-time world champion replied simply: “Yes.”
On the eve of his home grand prix at Hockenheim the German went on to elaborate, saying his intention when he came back at the start of the season was to win the world championship and that this had not changed. “That is my focus and that is what I am here for,” he said.
In 10 starts this season Schumacher has managed a best finish of fourth on two occasions and failed to score points four times. Most tellingly, the 41-year-old has been out-performed by his young team-mate, Nico Rosberg. Schumacher has won only 36 points compared with Rosberg’s 90 when his compatriot was expected to play second fiddle to the winner of a record 91 grands prix.
“Am I perfectly happy with my own performance? That is probably the wrong thing to say,” Schumacher said when questioned as to whether expectation levels had been too high. “There is an expectation out there but you have to be realistic that it is probably impossible to meet. To be out three years and start where I finished in a car that doesn’t allow me to do it, is unrealistic. I will take my time. I enjoy most of it, this process. There are ups and downs and that is part of motor sport. I am very confident I can achieve it, which is what I am focusing for.”
Schumacher was flanked by the two Red Bull drivers who continued to try to damp down the flames that were caused by a traumatic – if victorious – weekend at Silverstone a fortnight ago. After Mark Webber’s win he was heard over the team radio to say the result was “not bad for a No2 driver”, a response to Sebastian Vettel being given the upgraded front wing from Webber’s car just before qualifying for the British grand prix when the German’s broke during practice.
“I don’t have any regrets,” Webber said today. “As a sportsman, and that is why we are all here – it’s a sport – things happen in the heat of the moment. I should have put some colourful language either side of my radio transmission, because maybe it would never have got run. But I was polite and it did get run.”
The Australian was also keen to end speculation that his relationship with Vettel had been damaged by the goings-on at Silverstone. “Obviously there was a little bit of stuff here and there but first of all Sebastian did absolutely nothing wrong with me at the last event,” he said. “That is totally obvious.”
Schumacher goes into his home race knowing that he is no longer a front runner and not even the front-running German driver. That honour now belongs to Vettel. While the old master struggles to get to grips with his Mercedes, the young upstart in the Red Bull knows he has the car to beat this weekend. So does Webber.