BARCELONA, May 12, 2012 (AFP) - Michael Schumacher on Saturday defended his decision to preserve his tyres instead of fighting for a grid position in qualifying for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix.
The seven-time world champion chose not to complete a timed lap in the top-10 shootout and will line up ninth on the grid behind compatriot and defending champion Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull and Kamui Kobayashi of Sauber, both of whom also did not clock a flying lap time.
"We wanted to save tyres this afternoon, which dictated how we managed Q3," said Schumacher.
"I did not complete a timed lap and now I still have the choice of what tyres to start on tomorrow. Equally, I thought it was better to start from ninth on the grid than eighth, and be on the clean side."
According to Schumacher, the decision not to run may be a major factor in what is expected to be a very closely-contested race in which tyre management could be critical.
He added: "It's clear that some teams have taken a step forward after the three-week break and I would also say that the field is now even closer together.
"It's going to be a tight race, although the forecast says it should be cooler, and it will be interesting to see if our choices today pay off at the end of the race."
Schumacher has been at the centre of a heated debate in the last three weeks surrounding the performance of the unforgiving Pirelli tyres.
Earlier this week, he said they degraded so quickly that driving a car using the softer compound tyres was like "driving on raw eggs."