Schumacher Could Have Finished 6th, Could Button Have Made the Podium?

James BoltonContributor IIJuly 11, 2011

Schumacher flying at Silverstone
Schumacher flying at SilverstoneClive Mason/Getty Images

Michael Schumacher had a particularly good British Grand Prix. He finished ninth and scored two points for Mercedes. But he could have finished much higher up.

He had to pit to change his front wing after crashing into Kamui Kobayashi on lap nine, but this was in the window to make the switch to slick tyres, reducing the disadvantage of having to make the extra pit stop to replace his damaged nose cone. Nevertheless, cruising slowly to the pits and changing the nose as opposed to merely changing the four wheels and tyres cost him sixteen seconds.

He was then given a ten second stop and go penalty for the incident with Kamui. That cost him a further sixteen seconds, with Silverstone’s fast pit lane, which skips the tight left – right sequence of Club, necessitating a ten second stop go rather than the more usual drive through penalty.

Meanwhile, Schumacher’s teammate, Nico Rosberg, pitted on lap 12 to change to slick tyres and continued without hindrance to his next pit stop on lap 30. Schumacher came in again on the next lap, after which the two drivers produced remarkably similar lap times from that point to the end of the race.

In fact, Rosberg was just 1.325 seconds faster over that entire twenty lap period. This shows that both drivers are at the top of their game, and their remarkable consistency suggests they were getting very close to extracting the maximum performance from their cars.

Unfulfilled potential
Unfulfilled potentialClive Mason/Getty Images

At the finish Schumacher was 17 seconds behind his teammate, and so it is very likely that without the Kobayashi accident, his strong drive would have resulted in a comfortable sixth place and ‘best of the rest’ behind the Red Bull’s, Ferrari’s and Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren.

The Mercedes is now firmly established as just that: best of the rest. In Valencia, Rosberg was 38 seconds behind Jenson Button’s McLaren. At Silverstone, he was 32 seconds behind Massa’s Ferrari.

Mercedes’ two drivers are performing brilliantly at present, and if the team could find a clear half second a lap, in race pace, then they would surely be fighting for the podium positions.

One driver who desperately wanted a podium was Jenson Button. He has never finished on the podium at the British Grand Prix, and he had hoped to correct that statistic on Sunday, but some poor pit work left Jenson parking his car as he exited the pit lane on lap 39.

Jenson was clearly disappointed to drop out of the race to such a basic team error; it was reminiscent of Monaco last year when a ‘bung’ was left in his sidepod, resulting in the car overheating behind the safety car and the McLaren being forced to drop out.

But how close was Jenson to the podium?

As he parked up, Mark Webber was flying through the ultra-fast Abbey curve and into the camera shot. It’s impossible to know who would have got to Village first, but both drivers were fighting hard and wouldn’t have given an inch had it become a wheel to wheel duel.

Webber went on to pass Lewis Hamilton on lap 46. But he got past, arguably, because Lewis was hobbled by the need to cruise to the finish. He had been under-fuelled because McLaren thought he would have a slow first stint spent fighting through traffic as a result of his tenth place starting position, but actually he made a sensational start, leaping into seventh place before passing Paul Di Resta and Felipe Massa.

This meant Lewis could race flat out from lap one, and by the end of the race, he had simply used too much fuel and had to conserve as much as possible so he could make the finish.

But Jenson started fifth and had no such fuel worries. It is safe to assume he would have passed Lewis too, especially if he had been behind Webber and was fighting to pass the Red Bull.

Weebber then quickly closed the gap to his teammate Sebastian Vettel but didn’t pass him. Had Jenson been ahead of Mark after his pit stop, would Vettel have pushed harder to avoid coming under pressure from the McLaren? Or was Vettel already pushing as hard as he could? We saw him cooling his tyres as Webber bore down on him.

The reality is we can’t be sure, but it is likely a three way battle for second was on the cards and it could have gone to any of the three men.


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