Has Michael Schumacher still got what it takes to win an F1 race? That’s the question buzzing around the Top Gear office at the moment, and a few of the big names in motorsport have weighed in on the subject.
Ross Brawn – the team principle who masterminded Schumacher’s dominance at Ferrari – believes Big Schu will be right at the front of the pack.
“I’m sure that if he doesn’t win one of the remaining races of the season it will not be his fault but because Ferrari is not in a winning position,” Brawn told Gazzetta dello Sport. “I’m convinced he will be strong.”
F1 legend Nikki Lauda – who himself made a triumphant return to racing in the 1980s – agrees, despite concerns that Schumacher is struggling to overcome a neck injury sustained while motorbike testing.
“Forget about the age,” said Lauda this week. “He is fit, he’s undergoing rigorous training and mentally he is taking up the challenge. He will do everything possible to be fit as a fiddle in Valencia.”
Lauda believes that Schumacher regretted his decision to retire from F1 at the age of 37, and will be looking forward to taking on the current crop of drivers.
“In my opinion he retired at the end of the 2006 season because he couldn’t see a real challenge – and probably he regretted his decision,” said Lauda. “Now he’s got the unique chance… to find out for himself how competitive he still is. This hunger for competition – for the adrenalin rush – never dies. It’s in our DNA.”
“The situation as it is now at Ferrari gives him the chance to explore how far he is off the top. That is a question that always puzzles a top driver.”
Maybe it’s a question of whether you see it as a win-win situation for Schumacher – if he wins a race, it’s the triumphant return of the great master, and if he loses he can blame it on a dud car – or whether he’s running the risk of sullying his own legend.
There’s no question he’s giving himself the best shot at victory – reports suggest Big Schu has already lost over three kilos in weight as part of a punishing fitness schedule to prepare himself for Valencia. Maybe we’ll have to rename him Medium Schu?
Provided Ferrari give Schumi a good car – and let’s not forget that Raikkonen’s car looked plenty quick in Hungary – do you think he’s got what it takes to win a race before the end of the season?