x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

Schumacher left behind by young drivers

Former world champion is being outclassed by younger, better drivers since his return to the Formula One circuit.

Michael Schumacher has been making errors this season, something that was a rarity during his heyday.
Michael Schumacher has been making errors this season, something that was a rarity during his heyday.

I would not be surprised if my old teammate Michael Schumacher retires for good at the end of the season.

Schumacher did not return to Formula One just to make up the numbers. He came back to win races and add titles to his already impressive career statistics.

It has not happened, and the simple fact is that he is no longer the best driver on the track.

Schumacher has not lost any of his skill; the new generation of young drivers are just better than him.

As Schumacher continues to struggle he is being left in the slipstream of Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes GP teammate. He was again outperformed by his young German compatriot in Turkey at the weekend, both in qualifying and in the race.

He blamed himself for his early collision with Vitaly Petrov that ruined his race on Sunday, and I have to agree with him. I don't understand why he turned in when he did after he had clearly lost the corner to the Russian driver and it was rather a schoolboy mistake that ended his chances of scoring points.

I do not think he is any slower than he was when he was winning seven world titles; he is just struggling to cope with a situation he is not used to - he is no longer the best guy in the field and he does not have the best machinery at his disposal, as well as the fact that he has a teammate in Rosberg who is consistently beating him.

I thought he would have closed the gap on Rosberg, but it has not proved to be the case and we saw again in Istanbul that when it mattered most in qualifying it was the younger German who did the better job.

Rosberg qualified third and gave himself the chance to run at the front end of the grid. Schumacher, meanwhile, did not do a good lap, started eighth and left himself in the midfield with a chance of getting caught up in an incident early in the race, which is exactly what happened to him.

Schumacher is competing against a new breed of grand prix drivers. Normally in any particular era you have one or two new drivers coming through and marking themselves as being the next stars, but currently the standard is very high and you have more and more talented people coming through.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso are both terrific drivers, then you have Sebastian Vettel, Rosberg, Kamui Kobayashi, Paul di Resta and Jaime Alguerusari - all young drivers who are out to do well and are willing to fight on the track. There are no weak links out there.

In the past, Schumacher was able to be very forceful in races and his sheer presence would almost force cars to pull aside or back out of situations, but this is no longer happening and you are seeing this with the number of incidents he has been involved in both this year and last season as well.

As I said, I don't think he has lost any speed as he is still very fit at the age of 42, and he is not that far away from Rosberg, although the fact he is still being beaten regularly by his teammate will be a concern.

He cannot blame the age factor as to why he is being beaten and has not finished on the podium in any of the 23 races he has competed in since he came back to the series after stopping in 2006.

It is a case that the level required to win in F1 has gone up and he is not at that standard anymore.

He did not return just to run in the middle order. His dream was to win again and make Mercedes race winners, but it has not turned out that way and I would be surprised if he chose to continue.

Johnny Herbert is a former F1 driver with three career victories. His column is written with the assistance of staff writer Graham Caygill

 

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