BUDAPEST // Failing to finish at six of the first 11 races of a season is not the kind of form expected of a seven-time world champion. Yet neither is the sequence of calamities that Michael Schumacher experienced yesterday at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Mercedes-GP's veteran German caused an aborted start to the 69-lap race at the Hungaroring, the governing body of Formula One confirmed last night. Schumacher had not parked within the confines of his designated position on the grid and by the time race control signalled the 24-car field to complete a second formation lap, Schumacher had turned off his engine.
"This was obviously one of those races that you will not look back at for very long," he said. "Our engine temperatures were very high before the start, and when the yellow lights came on, I switched the engine off. All in all, the beginning of the race was not very pleasant for us. Everything you do not need came together."
After being wheeled back to his garage and ordered to start the race from the pit lane, the 43 year old was then handed a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pits. Schumacher's race continued to get worse as he, first, suffered a puncture and then was told to retire with 11 laps left.
"We did not have full telemetry before the start and during the period of overheating, and this is why we finally decided to retire, so as not risk any damage which might make us suffer in the next race," he said. "Now we can check the car properly before the break and prior to [the next race at] Spa."
It was a far better day for Schumacher's former team, Ferrari. The Italian manufacturers discovered their car was not as competitive as it had proven in recent races, yet Fernando Alonso, the championship leader, finished fifth, while teammate Felipe Massa placed ninth.
Alonso now leads Red Bull Racing's Mark Webber by 40 points – a gap he called "completely abnormal" considering his car's pace this season – and said his team must make a massive effort to return to the track more competitive in one month's time.
"We have a lead of 40 points, courtesy of a car that has not been the best in this first half of the season," the Spaniard said. "Now we must try and make a good leap forward in terms of performance to allow us to keep the lead because in the long term what we have now will not be enough."
Alonso says he will use the summer break to "recharge the batteries". "I hope the second part of the season is as positive and productive as the first one," he said. "There are five weeks to rest and then we look to the future, starting with two very demanding races at Spa and Monza."
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