Even if Michael Schumacher hasn’t exactly wowed on the track, we all can be thankful for his return to Formula 1, if only for one reason: He fills the slow news days.
Today’s news is Norbert Haug’s denying rumors that Schumacher has been given an “ultimatum” that he needs to improve dramatically next year or face being cut off after the second of his third contract year.
Here’s Haug, via the BBC:
“Of course there was no ultimatum. We are currently a little bit handicapped with our car but I have no complaints and no regrets that we’re going to achieve our target. We need to work hard.
“Michael is relaxed, concentrated. He doesn’t need anybody to defend him, certainly not me but we are very happy with the job he’s doing.
“If you take into consideration that he was not in Formula One for three years, we are heading in the right direction and there is certainly not an ultimatum.”
Of course, Norbert’s credibility is strained a bit by his saying this: “He is as good as he ever was, probably better.” (That’s for Todd’s benefit. He seems to hate it when I don’t slam Schumacher, at least a little.)
For Michael and Mercedes, this is all about the expectations game. I don’t think Kimi Raikkonen would face such high expectations if he were to return to the grid after just a year away. It’s a difficult situation, which only — really — can be handled by Michael winning races and being at least competitive for the title. That’s just the fact (perception) that comes with his being who he is.
I do think the team would be well served by coming up with a better communications strategy to tamp down expectations as much as possible. They would have been much better served by something along these lines:
“If you look back through the history of Formula 1, it typically takes a driver and a team three to five years to come together and produce a consistently winning package — especially if there is not a groundwork already there on which to build. We can look to our predecessor, Brawn GP / Honda to see that. We can look to Michael’s time starting at Ferrari and before that, as well. Look to Fernando Alonso at Renault. (etc. etc.)
“We currently are seeing that with the new teams on the Formula 1 grid. And we do want to say that we salute their progress and their competitive spirit, and like F1 fans and other teams in the paddock, we are impressed by how well they are developing from, essentially, scratch.
“We therefore see our goal as being an aggressive, if not unprecedented, one. We intend to compress the three to five-year time frame down to two or three years. And we only can accomplish that because we have some of the greatest minds and drivers ever in F1. Ross Brawn is critical to this success. Nico Rosberg, as a smart, intuitive driver who can speak with great feedback to his engineers is critical. And Michael Schumacher, one of the greatest drivers ever, is critical to that. It will be a testament to all our talents when we achieve our aims.”
But who am I? No Matt Bishop, after all.