May 9th 2012 (F1plus / Chris Cameron-Dow).- Michael Schumacher has had a miserable start to the season, statistically the worst in his Formula One career. Two retirements, two tenth places and only two points from the first four races cannot be satisfying, particularly given the pace of this year’s car.
On the positive side, Schumacher's qualifying performances (aside from Bahrain) have been electrifying. Fourth in Australia, third in Malaysia and second on the grid in China show that Schumacher is on the pace. And Mercedes have finally given the seven-time World Champion a car that can win races, as team-mate Nico Rosberg demonstrated by winning the Chinese Grand Prix in dominant fashion.
So what's gone wrong for Schumacher?
In Australia, his gearbox failed while he was running third. Although the team claims to have solved the gearbox issue and there have been no further failures, Mercedes chose to change Schumacher's gearbox in Malaysia, suggesting that there might be some lingering concerns
In Malaysia, he was spun by Romain Grosjean, which put him down in 16th place on the first lap and effectively ended his challenge for serious points. Although Schumacher was not at fault, he was a little slow off the line which allowed Grosjean to pass him into turn one. A better race start could have prevented the incident entirely.
In China, a loose wheel after a pitstop error forced him to retire from second place. Not his fault, but the team knew immediately that there was a problem. Why didn’t they get on the radio and tell him to stop before leaving the pits?
In Bahrain, a DRS problem on his first prime tyre run in qualifying saw him start the race 22nd, recovering well to 10th by the end. But the question has to be asked: Could Schumacher not have qualified better, using option tyres in Q1, even without the benefit of DRS?
It's been a rough start to the season for Schumacher. There are things that could have been done differently, but overall he has been unlucky. The good news is that the car is quick. All that is required now is for everything to come together over a whole race weekend. When it does, the most successful driver in history should be back at the front.