x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Penalty holds some promise for Schumacher

The German's illegal pass on Alonso demonstrates the veteran still has what it takes to challenge at the top.

Michael Schumacher, the decorated German, showed in the Monaco Grand Prix that he still has the hunger to finish as high as he can in every race.
Michael Schumacher, the decorated German, showed in the Monaco Grand Prix that he still has the hunger to finish as high as he can in every race.

Michael Schumacher was penalised for his pass on Fernando Alonso on the final corner for sixth position as the safety car came in on the last lap, but it did show that he has lost none of his racing instinct. There was some confusion after the race over what the regulations allowed, but, ultimately, FIA rule 40.13 confirms that when the race finishes behind the safety car, there is no overtaking when it pulls in at the final corner and the cars drive across the finish line.

Mercedes GP read the rules differently, believing that once the cars passed the safety car line that they were free to race. Michael demonstrated that he has lost none of his sharpness as he dived down the inside of Alonso and made the move stick. It was quick thinking by him and Ross Brawn, the Mercedes GP chief, on the pit-wall, but it turns out they had not read the rules right and the 20-second penalty saw him drop from sixth to outside the points in 12th.

He and Mercedes are not going to win the championship on current form as they are behind the likes of Red Bull-Renault on raw speed and yes, the move lost him at least six points as he would have finished seventh if he had stayed where he was. But he has shown he has still got that hunger to finish as high as he can in every race. He is continuing to improve after his slow start to the season and he was very well matched against Nico Rosberg, his teammate, and just had the edge on him in the race until the late drama.

Mercedes are appealing Schumacher's punishment and it will be interesting to see if they get anywhere with At the front it was another dominant display from Mark Webber as he won his second successive race for Red Bull and he has now got the momentum. He is on a roll, unquestionably, and has the fastest car on the grid and is making full use of it. He didn't pull a wheel wrong in Monte Carlo. His racing has grown much stronger in the last season and a half and we are seeing that in his performances as he has just dominated the last two rounds.

All the momentum in the Red Bull team is with him and it is going to be a big challenge for his teammate Sebastian Vettel to step up and stop Webber's run. Webber was not the only driver to impress me in Monaco. Robert Kubica did an excellent job in the Renault, qualifying second and then finishing third behind the Red Bulls. He has been doing a good job and it is no surprise that he has been linked with a rumoured move to Ferrari next year. The Polish driver has got as much out of the car as he could. You could see how aggressive he was being with the car during qualifying, but the car was able to handle it.

He has been unfortunate with the machinery he has had at is disposable in the past. He was unlucky with what happened with BMW withdrawing and then he joined Renault, who also had an uncertain winter before part of the team was bought out. But he is making the most of what he has and is improving his reputation with his performances in the fifth-fastest car on the grid. Alonso also did a good job to finish sixth after he had been forced to start last on the grid following his crash in practice that left him unable to take part in qualifying.

What got him so high up was the quick thinking of Ferrari to pull him in for his one pit-stop on the first lap when the safety car was out following Nico Hulkenberg's crash in the Williams. It got his stop out of the way without losing time and it meant that when everyone else pitted he was able to move up into the points. What did surprise and disappoint me was that none of the cars at the back of the grid did the same thing.

There was a great opportunity for the Virgins, Lotuses and the HRTs to be in a position to move up the order and maybe spring a surprise, yet they just stuck to their same strategies and stayed at the rear of the field. The Lotuses were actually the last to pit for tyres and it just seemed as if they missed a trick. Johnny Herbert is a former Formula One driver who competed in 161 races, winning three times.

sports@thenational.ae