Monday, August 2, 2010

Dangerous Driving

Micheal Schumacher seems hell-bent on destroying his own legacy.

Yesterday, Schumacher defended his position against Barichello by chopping right as the two cars went down the main straight. Barichello kept his foot in it, and the only reason why the two cars didn't end up in the wall was the fact that the wall didn't extend as far as Barichello had to go in order to avoid the collision.

How close was it? Go look at this picture. Damn.

(Update: here's a better, high-resolution photo of the incident. Schumacher left Barichello room, but not much.)

This is the second race where Schumacher's positional defense was... let's say excessively vigorous. Back at the Canadian Grand Prix, Schumacher chopped both Kubica and Massa. Kubica blotted his copybook with an excessively aggressive pass on the pit-in, and Massa further confused the issue by speeding in the pit lane. Schumacher got a pass on his transgressions.

But this time there wasn't anything else to confuse the stewards. Schumacher's act was investigated, and he was awarded a 10-place grid penalty for the next event.

Schumacher's return this year hasn't been exactly covered in glory. He is consistently out-qualified and out-raced by his younger teammate, who himself is not exactly tearing up the scoresheets.

Pedro De LaRosa has provided a defense for Schumacher's lack of form. De LaRosa, who is also returning to F1 after an absence, claims that with the lack of testing available to drivers it will take someone at least a year to get to grips with the cars now. Not that De LaRosa was ever particularly on fire in the standings.

This whole return was supposed to be a ready-made triumph. Mercedes had aquired the championship-winning constructor who had won with the Mercedes engine. Having two German drivers, one of them being arguably the greatest F1 driver of all time, was Mercedes' dream.

Unfortunately it didn't turn out that way.

I speculated last year that Brawn was going to find it tough to repeat their title-wining form. Their season of dominance came courtesy of Honda's total abandonment of 2008 very early in the year, and Brawn was permitted the luxury of time and Honda money on a scale that was not available to any other team. When combined with the Mercedes power plant, the result was a car that was far and away the class of the field.

Lacking both the time and money spent the previous year, I think that 2010 was always going to be lesser. I don't think Schumacher really counted on it being this much of a come-down from 2009.

So I think that between the lack of results and the driving incidents, Schumacher really has no choice but to soldier on in 2011. He needs to point to this year as a learning year, and hope that Brawn can get the team's act back together to provide a competitive car that can win, and then win with it.

If he quits without winning (which is the increasingly likely result of the 2010 campaign) it will provide a blot on his record.

...of course this all assumes he doesn't get himself hurt by vigorously defending a single point or something stupid.