x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Traffic frustrates seventh-placed Schumacher

Michael Schumacher blamed traffic on his fastest lap for leaving him only seventh in qualifying for today's Australian Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher finished seventh in qualifying for today's Grand Prix.
Michael Schumacher finished seventh in qualifying for today's Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher blamed traffic on his fastest lap for leaving him only seventh in qualifying for today's Australian Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion had hoped for a good showing in his Mercedes GP car following an unconvincing return to the sport at the Bahrain Grand Prix where he finished sixth. He had to be content with a spot at the front of the fourth row, but was annoyed at being held up by Fernando Alonso's Ferrari on his final fast lap of the session.

"I am OK with the outcome even if I was a bit handicapped by traffic, especially on my final quick lap," he said. The German confronted Alonso after the session and he confirmed he had talked to Charlie Whiting, the FIA's (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) race director, about the rules and regulations for drivers being held up by slower cars. "I had a conversation with Charlie about it because I wanted to know what are the guidelines here and whether the rules have changed a little bit to what they used to be," he said.

Despite his frustration at being blocked, Schumacher acknowledged that the Mercedes car was still a little off the pace of the Red Bulls and the Ferraris at the front of the field. "We made some changes with the car after practice this morning which did not work out perfectly," he said. "But in general I would guess the ranking that we see now reflects the situation well and our performance is probably the maximum for our car at the moment."

For the second successive race, Schumacher was out-paced by Nico Rosberg, his teammate, who lines up one spot ahead of him on the grid in sixth place despite being less than happy with his performance. He said: "I made a couple of mistakes on my best lap on the option tyres which cost me three or four tenths [of a second]. "There was more in the car today so it's always frustrating when you don't get the most out of it. It's not typical for me to make such mistakes in qualifying.

"But that's the way it goes sometimes and sixth position is still a good place to start." gcaygill@thenational.ae