- 5 minutes with ... Michael Schumacher
'I've been out for three years and things change'
Adam Hay-Nicholls hears from the seven-times world champion about switching the focus to 2011, competing with his team-mate, and missing the taste of podium champagne…
What are you looking to get out of the two remaining races this season?
Our main subject is to maximize the potential of the car and, as a team, continue to grow together. Never forget we are a young team, and a small team in a way. So to get all this infrastructure working in the most efficient way is something we're focusing on and developing race-by-race. For me I'm getting more and more into all the little details. Yes, I have a lot of experience but I've been out for three years and things change. With time I'll pick up more and more parts of the puzzle which make up the whole picture.
But given your record and experience, and joining a team that are reigning champions, was it a surprise that, in fact, performance has gone down and not up?
I think everybody expected this [that the team would improve], including myself. Particularly when you think last year where the team had been, and Mercedes and myself joining. But also with me being away for three years, Mercedes and Brawn joining a new partnership, it means there are a lot of new components that have to grow together. Don't forget the situation last year [when resources were thrown at winning the championship] and preparing for this year there was a compromise. And that's what we're seeing right now.
What's your evaluation of the five title challengers this year?
You'd rather be ahead than behind, naturally, with two races to go. But certainly it's not over.
What is the deciding factor? Does the human element become bigger and bigger as you get closer to the end of the year?
For me the deciding factor is the development of the car, but the driver is involved, yes.
Has the fact that the focus has shifted to 2011 lifted the weight of expectation from yourself and the team?
I think the weight of expectation was off quite early in the season, honestly. I don't think it has changed a lot because even in winter testing there was good reason not to be that optimistic. If you take my quotes, pretty early on I haven't really spoken about the championship. Nico [Rosberg] was a little bit more optimistic, but I saw it going this way. You have a tool in your hand and you know what are its possibilities. That's why I was keen to stop this project and focus on next year and have a slight edge on the other guys.
I think we optimized the set-up better than we had been doing. You know that we have taken some development steps over the year and put them on the car, but they haven't always reacted [positively]. I think we're on top of this subject, especially in Suzuka in the race that was the case, and [in Korea too].
Have you been impressed by your team-mate this year?
'Impressed' is the wrong word because I think Nico had established himself before he arrived here, and he has continued to prove what a good, consistent driver he is. He has proven that in Suzuka too [when he and Michael raced closely]. But then you're team-mates and you only go that far. With another driver it would have been different from both sides.
Do you think you can get on the podium this year?
We need a bit of luck to go for the podium. We're behind the Red Bulls, Ferraris and McLarens unless special factors come into play, like rain. A podium for Mercedes would naturally be a very good result, the maximum we could hope for. For me personally, not really that much, because I have different aims.
You must miss the champagne, though…
I'm here to have success together with the team, that's our target and nothing else counts. To just have a podium every once in a while… that's not really the important business.