Schumacher / Mercedes GP look to Spa…with fondness and little hope

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Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP’s venerable 7-time world champion, is looking forward to next weeks race at Spa Francorchamps. Why shouldn’t he be? It’s his favorite track and not terribly far from his hometown of Kerpen, Germany. Schumacher may like Spa the most but he’ll start with a 10-spot grid penalty for his blocking maneuver on Williams F1 driver and former teammate Rubens Barrichello at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Penalty or not, each mile driven is an opportunity to learn according to Schumacher:

“Spa has always been my favourite racetrack and so for that reason alone, I am really looking forward to going back and racing there. It has been ages since I have last been there. Our weekend will obviously be handicapped by my grid penalty and consequently it will be difficult to expect special things from the race. On the other hand, every racing kilometre is important and welcome because we can learn from it with regards to our car. I will definitely try to make the best out of the weekend.”

Schumacher is not the only Mercedes GP driver who favors Spa. Teammate Nico Rosberg is also partial to the racing circuit and is looking forward to the return of F1 after a brief break:

“It’s been nice to have a short break but it will be good to start racing again next weekend. Spa is definitely up there as one of my favourite circuits and it’s one of the most challenging tracks that we race on. The lap is very high-speed with some great corners, including Eau Rouge of course, and it’s just a great place to drive a Formula One car. The last race in Hungary was difficult for us but I know that everyone at the factory has been working hard since the shutdown and we hope to have a better weekend in Spa.”

We talked at length about Mercedes GP during our last podcast and were wondering if the knock-on Brawn GP car had reached its proverbial limit. As we meandered around the topic, we felt Schumacher surely understood he was walking into a team with last years car and that this year was a development year and a year to get settled as the acquisition of Brawn GP by Mercedes would most likely bring its own challenges.

Were the expectations misplaced for Schumacher and Rosberg in 2010? In hindsight, they seem to have been but like Brawn GP of 2009, it really comes down to the development of the car for the remainder of the season. during the F1 break, the teams are not allowed to work on their chassis so Mercedes GP has done little to improve the car for Spa. Team principle Ross Brawn seems conciliatory about that fact and Mercedes GP may be riding this one out:

“The summer shutdown has been a well-deserved opportunity for our staff to have a break in the middle of the season but we are all looking forward to the racing getting underway again with the Belgian Grand Prix next weekend. Spa is one of the classic racing circuits on the calendar which is loved by drivers, engineers and fans so it is always one of the highlights of the year. The circuit is dominated by straights at the start and end of the lap with a twisty middle section and the drivers love the fast sweeping corners, including the legendary Eau Rouge. With the shutdown, we have had limited time to work on the car since Hungary, however we will do our best to have a good weekend in Spa to kick-off the final run of seven races to the end of the season.”

While Spa may see no major changes for Mercedes GP, will the remainder of the year see anything different? Schumacher has all but announced the teams focus is squarely on 2011 and while Rosberg has been relatively quite about the car this year and the focus on next year, I find myself admiring the young man’s approach tot he political football of Mercedes GP and Michael Schumacher. Rosberg’s lack of criticism of this years car only exagerates Schumacher’s critique and somehow makes his complaints seem even more of an excuse. The 2011 season just may be a banner year for Rosberg or we could see a resurgent Schumacher…the one everyone thought they might see this year.

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