Driving styles Part B – More thoughts and Michael Schumacher

Posted: March 14, 2012 in Drivers, Formula 1
Tags: , , , ,

Discussing Michael Schumacher’s driving style is challenging, because his career spans 3 decades or, if you prefer, 23 years (including the 2012 season) – 20 years if we take out the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons. Considering that the official F1 championship started in 1950, this means that Schumacher’s career covers 31.5% of the time that we had a F1 championship. To get a better understanding, Schumacher has raced (and won) against drivers representing many generations of F1 drivers; to name but a few: Stefan Johansson, Nelson Piquet, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell, Jean Alesi, David Coulthard, Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Eddie Irvine, Juan Pablo Montoya, Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel… It’s fair to say that people come and go in Formula 1, but Michael is always there. Which makes the fact that he’s still competitive and he’s still racing at (near) the top, an extraordinary feat, unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the history of the sport. There are F1 drivers that joined the sport as promising rookies when Schumacher was already an established figure, and are now retired old-timers, like Jacque Villeneuve, Olivier Panis, David Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, Eddie Irvine, Jos Verstappen, Mika Salo, Giancarlo Fisichella, etc… It sometimes hard to understand: no one would consider Jacques Villeneuve, for example, for a race seat in 2012 – it would be a folly. Nevertheless, Jacques joined F1 in 1996, i.e. 5 years later than Michael, and has retired in 2006 (i.e. 6 years ago and long overdue), yet Michael is still racing, which is a testament of a unique combination of sheer talent, determination and love for the sport.

That’s quite a long introduction to the subject of driving styles, but people need to understand that Michael has driven a large variety of F1 cars in his time, and, as we explained in our previous blog, a driver needs to adapt his driving style (sometimes drastically) to suit different cars, tracks and tyres characteristics. It would be silly to suggest that Michael is now using the same “style” as his did when he was racing the 1991 Benetton. However, there are things that never change, and they have to do more with the way a driver deals with the physics involved and his setup preferences. For example, Ralf Schumacher was a late braker; Jarno Trulli was the opposite. Jenson Button brakes earlier than Rubens but he is more progressive. Mika Hakkinen prefered a later turn-in than David Coulthard. Senna blipped the throttle in the middle of the corner, Schumacher was never really off it. Kimi Raikkonen is superb in weight-transfer situations. Ronnie Peterson couldn’t even park a car without power sliding it, etc, etc. The most important thing though that defines a racing driver is his feel for the limit, and we will expand later on that.

The principles of driving a F1 car haven’t changed dramatically from the past. Prost has said that the ideal setup is one with an inclination towards understeer, which preserves the rear tyres and makes the car predictable in fast corners. What Schumacher (and other great drivers in the past) has been able to do, is to drive with the same efficiency and speed cars that were not perfect, or to his absolute liking at all times. We mustn’t forget that Michael’s most spectacular season was 1997, when he fought for the championship in a car that was desperately temperamental, against much stronger opposition, and he would have won it had it not been for his radiator failing in the last race at Jerez, while leading the race.

Michael drove some difficult and temperamental cars in his career. People tend to forget that cars in the 90′s and early 00′s were completely different beasts to contemporary F1 cars, which are extremely well designed, predictable, and have huge amounts of driveable downforce. We have now reached a point that a driver can make little difference in lap times (certainly much less than in the past). The cars don’t twitch under breaking, don’t power slide, you can’t miss a gear change and you can’t over-rev the engine. But it was a different story back then. Up until 1998, Schumacher used to out-qualify his team-mates by 1 -1.5 seconds on average, each year. In fact, he out-qualified every team-mate he ever had from the end of the 1991 season until the start of the 1996 season, with the exception of the 1995 Belgian GP when it started to rain and Schumi hadn’t set a lap in the dry. He qualified 15th and still went on to win the race in spectacular fashion. Can you imagine spending almost 5 years without being out-qualified by another driver driving the same car as you? The reason I have mentioned these old times is because it makes much more sense to talk about Michael’s driving style up until circa 2004 than it is to talk about today. And I am afraid that I will have to follow Peter Windsor’s advise and not post any footage this time, because it’s illegal according to FOM (you can however search for yourselves in YouTube and find many gems).

So, what was it that made Schumacher so special? First, it was the purely visual element; Michael was a spectacular driver to see, especially in a hot lap, from the outside. It was a bit like watching ballet as opposed to bull fighting. The car was dancing around, but in a very premeditated, pre-calculated fashion. And if we watch his onboard laps, it’s easy to understand why. Michael, despite popular misguided opinion, was (and still is actually) a driver who prefers understeer, because he simply understands that this is where the lap time is coming from and that this is the ideal way to set up a car. In fact he is arguably the best driver in the history of the sport when it comes to dealing with understeer, as many team-mates he’s had in the past have attested to (Brundle, Irvine and Rubens). Ferrari, as a result of this, had always been (since 1999) a very stable and well-balanced car throughout Schumi’s reign, that always tended to understeer rather than oversteer at corner entries.

His main advantage was that he was able to carry huge amounts of speed into a corner, by using a gradually increasing steering lock as opposed to gradually decreasing left-foot braking. The interesting bit was that he was able to slide the car at the exact apex of the corner, timing this brief transition from understeer to neutral-steer to perfection. This transition wasn’t a result of something he did (e.g. wheel movement or application of brake) but it was more a natural transition from one state to the other that simply relied on physics and car setup. What was spectacular about it was the timing, since this slide would almost always take place on mid corner, so when viewed from outside it was a very fluid and natural movement, as if the car slid just this tiny bit in order to embrace the apex of the corner.

To accomplish that, Schumacher was rarely off the throttle completely, and even when he came back on it, he was very progressive and gentle – the first since many generations of drivers to achieve that. Popular belief, again, has Senna blipping the throttle inside the corners, in an on-off manner, and that’s true, but what many people don’t realize is that almost all drivers in F1 were just like that back then. Hakkinen, Berger, Coulthard, Alesi, Hill, Herbert, etc all used on-off throttle in the corners, but Michael was the first driver to take car control-by-throttle-usage to that different level. As a result, this slide at the apex of the corner, (which some have called “4-wheel drift” but I prefer to call neutral-steer), gave Michael a very significant advantage in positioning the car for the exit, by straightening the car very early. Michael never used extreme reactions to correct this slide, because it was all premeditated, just a small decrease of the initial steering lock, usually to the neutral position, which again made the transition from the apex of the corner to the exit extremely fluid and, to the onlookers, to appear as one movement. Not only the car, but the front wheels and the steering wheel were in perfect position to put the power down for the exit.

As a result of the above, Michael was indeed the first driver in the history of the sport to have maximized corner entry, apex and exit at the same time. If you like, he was the first driver to apply the fast-in, fast-out driving style. In fact, in order to be entirely accurate, we have to say that there were times when his apex speed was not the absolute fastest because of all the things that were going on at this stage, but overall he would be much faster than anybody else exactly because he didn’t have to compromise any speed either at corner entry or at corner exit. This relentless, absolute driving style required a very necessary ingredient: a very good and consistent feeling for the limit. Like we discussed in our previous blog, Alonso was able to drive the way he did in 2003 – 2006 because he had a very good feeling of how much the car was going to slide and at what exact point it would regain its grip. For Michael it was the same story, only more so, because he had to maximize all parts of the corner. His incredible, instinctive feel for the limit allowed him to drive like the way we described, using the slide to position the car and hardly ever using all the kerbs at the exit, simply because he was so nicely positioned for the straight that he didn’t have to. The only driver that has approached, ever since, this kind of driving style perfection is Lewis Hamilton, but not nearly as consistently as Michael who could do that one lap after the other, for an entire race.

This uncanny feeling for the limit came to the fore every time the track conditions were wet. Schumacher’s wet races from that era are legendary, and he used to thrive in changing weather conditions when you had to trust your instinct on how much grip is available before you commit yourself to a corner. His most spectacular race ever was the Spanish Grand Prix of 1996, when he lapped the entire field up to 3rd position, and then just cruised around to collect the 10 points (for victory, at that time); this remains the single most convincing display of natural talent and dominance I have ever seen in a F1 car. Of course there are many more examples of wet race dominance, like Spa 1997, Spa 1998, Monaco 1997, Nurburgring 2000, Spa 1995, etc, etc. Back then, when the track was wet, Schumacher wasn’t aiming to win the race, but to humiliate his opponents, something for which he paid dearly on occasion, like for instance in Spa 1998 when he crashed at the back of David Coulthard while trying to lap him. In addition to that, Michael was an extremely cunning racer, who could adapt to almost anything that a race threw at him. In 1994, for instance, in the Spanish GP, he lost all gears (from a 6-speed gearbox) except 5th, with 40 laps to go, whilst leading the race. Michael used this feeling for the limit and his knowledge from driving heavy sports cars to bring the car home in 2nd position, including 2 pit stops where he had to get the car going in 5th gear… When he mentioned that he’d lost all gears but 5th in the press conference after the race nobody believed him, and Benetton had to show to the press the telemetry from the car in order to convince them.

So, there you have it. If I had to characterize Michael according to his driving style, I’d call him the great Calculator. Watching him drive in his prime was like watching art. It was this spectacular visual element that made me want to become more involved with the sport and understand what’s hidden behind it. A lot of people tend to disregard Schumacher’s achievements, by arguing that he had subservient team-mates and superior machinery. These opinions never made me angry; they made me sad instead, because it is sad to not be able to appreciate the beauty that Michael has brought to the sport. Appreciating Michael as a driver has made me love the sport even more, and it is simply depressing that other fans are missing on that.

And what about today, I hear you ask. Well, Michael today is not the driver he used to be, by any stretch of the imagination. And this is painfully obvious in his driving style, which is a far cry from his driving style of old. The problem does not lie in reflexes, because this has never been Michael’s strongest point. There have been slightly better drivers than him in that department in the past; it wasn’t just quick reflexes that made Michael faster than anybody else. What is missing, at this point, is this tremendous feeling for the limit - this sense that every move, every correction and every slide is a calculated, analyzed and premeditated action. You can see that from his onboard laps; Michael is more hesitant, his movements are not fluid and his reactions are edgier. Michael’s reactions are just that: reactive. It’s true that the Mercedes W01 and W02 didn’t help, but Rosberg was much more stable and fluid in his driving and, as a result, faster. This loss of feeling was also obvious in qualifying, not because Michael was slower than Nico, but because it took him 2 or 3 laps in each qualifying session to find his groove, whereas Nico was bang-on-the-money from his 1st hot lap. A better car, as we all hope that the W03 is, will surely restore some of his confidence and will allow him to drive better, but it will not be able to restore all the characteristics that made Michael such a unique talent in the history of motor sport.

Schumacher has lost so much of his talent over the years, he is 43 years old and has spent 3 years away from the sport. The fact that he’s still with us and that he outraced Nico in 2011 is a testament, if one was needed, to a truly spectacular and unique driving talent. It also speaks volumes for his love of the sport, for Michael truly adores F1; he’s a hardcore petrol head through and through. And, just for that, we can but love him.

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Comments
  1. patsevtsev says:

    Very very touching article. It is great, thank you . I also started to love the sport so much because of Michael. And I am very sad that he is not the driver he used to be, although he claims that can win if he has the car. He does not believe to have lost of his speed. It is strange that cannot realise it .But I always thought because he has said it so many time especially during 2010 that he prefers oversteer

  2. anonymous says:

    Have a look at this video, which explains his driving his style from the 90s with some data and driver explanations. Very good!

    • abu says:

      Sorry I had to delete the link, because it’s not allowed by FOM to post this kind of footage. However people can find it if they go to YouTube and search for “michael schumacher driving style” – it’s the first that pops up…

      Thanks about that, I had already seen it, but couldn’t post it on the article for obvious reasons… ;)

  3. juniperus says:

    What about the tyres? Is it possible that the current tyres prevent him to do his native driving style?

    Keep in mind he was able to select and develop tyres by dozen of tests in the past!

    • abu says:

      No, I don’t feel tyres have much to do with it. The 2010 Bridgestones were very close to the tyre philosophy that he used to drive. 2011 Pirellis were much different, but Michael actually did better on the Pirellis. Nevertheless, I think it’s obvious that Michael isn’t getting as much from the tyres in medium and slow corners as Nico, whereas in faster speeds his commitment hasn’t changed from his glory years. This, let’s say, inability to 100% adapt to the tyres is another sign that Michael has lost elements of his skills, because in his hay days he was by far the strongest driver in the field in terms of adapting to different cars, different tyres, different track conditions, etc, etc. Lack of testing, as you say, hasn’t helped as well, mainly because 3 years out of the sport is too much to make up for by racing only.

  4. polifanathic says:

    What a great read!

    Regarding to what patsevtsev said, I think Michael has come to an understanding that he is not quite the driver he used to be. Whenever he talks about the “am I the same as I was 12 years ago”, he goes about to talk about how the context has changed and how it’s difficult to compare, but there is a degree of admittance which I perceive in those replies.

    The challenge that presents itself is whether he can truly pose a consistent threat to today’s top drivers – in particular Hamilton and Vettel, but clearly Rosberg as well. And I think that’s what he wants to prove, as far as anything is left to be proven.

    • abu says:

      I think Michael has evolved into a great ambassador for the sport. His more laid back attitude and relaxed approach create a positive image for F1 fans around the world. I think Michael realizes that he’s now giving back to the sport he loves, and from which he received so many good memories (and money!) over the years. Results come secondary, I feel, and I don’t think anybody can say with a straight face that MS has anything more left to prove… :)

      Thanks for your comments… :)

  5. Roger says:

    Great :-)

    For context, when you say Jenson brakes earlier than Rubens, or Mika turns in later than David.. what sort of difference in distance are we talking about? If Rubens started to brake at 50m, was Jenson starting at 52m? 55m? 60m?

    Likewise for the turn-in?

    In any class of racing where the cars are often very close (e.g. Aussie V8 Supercars), I always wonder how (say) late-braking drivers aren’t always driving up the rear of drivers with an earlier-braking style. A combination of good reflexes, and getting to know the styles of those you drive with?

    • abu says:

      The differences that we are talking about are very, very small. Let’s say, to take the braking scenario, that you arrive at a braking zone at 310kmh. If you delay your braking by 2 tenths of a second, this means that you will have travelled an additional 17.8 meters… which, as you understand, is huge. Braking zones in F1 rarely exceed 50 – 70 meters. So we are talking about very tiny differences, be it braking or turning in, that can make however a huge difference in the way the car is positioned to take a corner. Similary, imagine approaching a fast corner that’s taken at 240kmh. A turn-in delay of just 0.1 second, means that you will be turning in 7 meters later, which, again, is huge. We are talking here about differences that are measured in tenths of tenths of seconds and a car’s length maximum, depending of course on the braking zone or the corner. As for the V8s, the answer is exactly what you are suggesting. Good reflexes and understanding of the driving style of those you drive with.

  6. Pink Pony says:

    Great writing !!!!

    Actually hatred towards Michael (in big part is reflection of his sucess )…he bested so many good driver (some of them were also favourite drivers of so called Scu-Haters) where it only turned into nothing more than dislike towards him….

    Someone once said “you can love me, you can also hate me…but you can’t ignore me”…

  7. polifanathic says:

    Just having read that comment from Bild, with Michael offering the following answer:

    Suppose everyone had in Formula 1, an equally strong car. Do you think that you were a title contender?
    MS: “Yes. Maybe I’m not quite the same as with the middle 20 or 30, but I’m clearly good enough for the leaders in today’s Formula 1 ”

    It seemed to me that a) he accepts that he’s lost some degree of quality but also b) that it’s important for him to be competitive. I’m not quite sure he’s proven yet that he’s competitive with the top drivers, because he hasn’t had a car to show that. He’s been competitive against Nico, who I reckon could be a championship contender at a top team, so maybe you can extrapolate something from that, but it’s nothing certain.

    That’s what I meant about proving things. Not that I believe he needs to prove anything, but his own statement implies that something needs to be proven. Or so I understand it.

    • abu says:

      I understand completely and I agree with you – I was unaware of these comments. He he, I think it would impossible to even surgically remove competitiveness from Michael… ;)

      Actually, these comments gives a very good insight in the mind of Michael Schumacher. I find it bizarre how a driver that has been so successful in the past still feels the need to be compared against the best, and beat them! I think that such comments bode well for the season. We can only hope…. :)

  8. Danielsan says:

    Great article! Especially for Schumi fans. ;-) By the way your English is by no way poor.
    I’m certain that this season he’ll show us that his old skills are still there. Like you said he showed us a more relaxed approach to things. But if there is one trait that he can’t shake off although he’s done a great job not showing it the last two years then it’s his impatience. He took his time to understand the new car while showing respect to his new rivals and not going to the extreme limit risking his comeback to look ridiculous.
    He really is a great calculator. This season his car should be competitive and that is why I’m sure we’ll notice his eagerness to win with a more aggressive driving style. The one that we’ve been missing for so many years.*fingerscrossed*

  9. Ed says:

    Very good article! It’s very amazing, where you get that information…:)

    I almost agree with everything in this article, but i would add one thought. In my opinion, Michael hasn’t lost his talent – the problem is testing. In his prime career, he tested a lot and it was easy for him to be perfect. He practiced every little detail of his driving style and in matter fact every top driver did that and they all were driving in more perfect way…Now he has been away for 3 years and he is 43 years old – he need more practice (testing) to find this magic.

    So in my mind, every season offers new opportunities for Michael – maybe time (more practicing) will help him, maybe car or tyres. But one thing is sure, he hasn’t reach his maximum. So it’s very interesting to watch him this season again :)

    • abu says:

      Lack of testing has clearly hindered him, you are correct. Let’s hope that this season has a few pleasant surprises to throw our way… :)

  10. Chris says:

    “We mustn’t forget that Michael’s most spectacular season was 1997, when he fought for the championship in a car that was desperately temperamental, against much stronger opposition, and he would have won it had it not been for his radiator failing in the last race at Jerez, while leading the race.”

    Did his radiator fail because Jaques car hit it? I thought he was disqualified from that race and the championship?

    Anyway, your website is a great read. Keep up the good work!

    • abu says:

      Thanks mate. In the 1997 Jerez race Michael had built a healthy lead of around 5 seconds, which he was able to maintain comfortably, lap after lap, until about lap 48. However, at that point a radiator leak started to develop and as a result he lost all this advantage to Villeneuve within 2 laps. Villeneuve then attempted an opportunistic move down the inside of a hairpin, Schumacher closed the door in an attempt to take Jacques out of the race, and although they both collided it was Michael who retired. If Michael hadn’t closed the door, Villeneuve would have missed the corner and would have been probably beached in the sandtrap, which means that Michael would have won the championship because he was one point ahead of JV before going into the final round. The benefit of hindsight… The FIA, spurred on by the boundless British media hatred towards Michael who had completely obliterated Damon Hill, threw the book at Michael and Ferrari by disqualifying him from the championship. A bit of an overkill, if I may say so – it’s not like we hadn’t seen such moves in the past between Senna and Prost. Ah, well.

      • Chris says:

        Thanks. I don’t know if i ever knew about the leak or just forgot, but that all makes more sense.

        I recall that there was an article in autosport or maybe f1 racing in the late 90′s/early 00′s about Schumi’s driving style and how it maximised the tyres. Your article was very informative and easier to understand.

      • abu says:

        Thanks mate :)

  11. jeanrien says:

    Once again a splendid article … So glad to have found this blog to wait the first race, a pure wonder ^^

    The numbers are quite impressive … more than 30% of the history of F1 … For MS, you can’t take off this competitive attitude he has always had, but now your can add a more human aspect to his personality. And for the ones who doubt of the level he is at, okay during quali he is well under Rosberg (we have to be honnest, at least based on last year quali), but when it comes to the start and the first laps, no one has gained more places than him. And that’s so important and after that gaps grow and it is more difficult to overtake. We just have to hope the mercedes will be as competitive as expected and that would make a great show with RedBull and McLaren up front (as I’m not confinced ferrari will join the party directly but probably later during the season)

  12. madmax says:

    “A lot of people tend to disregard Schumacher’s achievements, by arguing that he had subservient team-mates and superior machinery.”

    I have heard that so many times by his deeply bitter critics. I think like you said, some people just hate him because he beat or even humiliated their favourite driver then they look for any reason possible he isn’t that good.

    You could even forget all his Ferrari years and 2 championship winning years at Benneton and just look at his debut for Jordan and next race for Benneton to see how great he was like what was said here http://www.f1revs.com/2011/08/quotes-from-schumis-f1-debut.html

    Great article again although I hope your wrong as you probably do too about him not getting back to anywhere near his best even with the new car!

    • abu says:

      Thanks for that link mate, really informative.

      And hey… I hope I am wrong too. I really do. I hope Michael has one more surprise to offer to us….. Fingers firmly crossed.

  13. Akheel says:

    Great article. Always nice to read anything and everything about Schumi. I loved F1 because of seeing him perform, the way he did. Sheer ruthlessness and absolute focus on speed. One thing that I have observed from onboard laps from him is that, the steering wheel is not aggressively used to control the car in and after turns. I HAVE NOT SEEN ANY DRIVER, handling the steering wheel so smoothly. Not even Jenson, whom we regard as a smooth driver. Schumi’s racing lines appeared absolutely perfect. My feeling is that if Schumacher is not driving the same that used to do, it could be because, lack of confidence in the equipment he has. I am extremely optimistic that once he has a machine which he can trust, it would be a completely different story. These two years, the attitude is like, “OK, I have nothing to lose, so let me enjoy”. When he gets in a position where his machine gives him confidence that he can go for wins and championship, the old beastly vulture might just wake up. I hope W03 brings that beast back.

    One more thing that people have not realized, is the fact that, he has been a fantastic team leader. He left a team which gave him 2 championships in 1995, to a team which was struggling for a single win. He took that challenge, took his trustworthy team, set the goals and succeeded and HOW. He is trying to repeat the same with Mercedes now. I hope it happens. This is a quality, no other driver has displayed till now.

    Thanks for a fantastic article.

  14. mozart06 says:

    Another great article!

    But are you sure that MSC prefer an understeering car? I thought until today the opposite.

    Gerhard Berger could not drive 1996 the Benetton because the car was too much oversteering.

    • abu says:

      Yes, absolutely MSC prefered a car biased towards slight understeer. Most people tend to confuse his preferences with the fact that he was awsome in controlling and manipulating oversteer. It’s true that Schumacher was very gifted and could control a nervous, twitchy car in spectacular fashion; however, his natural style and the way he liked his car to be set-up was, as I said, with an understeer bias, and this was evidenced in the Ferrari years, especially in 1999 onwards. Berger couldn’t live with the Benetton not because it was necessarily an oversteery car, per se, but because it was generally a very difficult, edgy and temperamental car to drive. I think Berger and Alesi were misled by Schumacher’s dominating 1995 season and thought that it would be relatively easy to replicate. They were wrong.

  15. Michael says:

    What an absolutely fantastic article and a lovely thing for me to read with a cup of tea after work!

    If you don’t mind me asking how long did that take to write?

    • abu says:

      Hmm… It didn’t take long, because most of it was already in my head. A few hours I would say, most of it doing research to verify things I remembered (or didn’t)…!

      Thanks for your kind comments mate – it’s my pleasure really… :)

  16. Kevin Irwin says:

    For me Micheal is a great driver and still is, his lack of grey matter reaction speed would be minimised if he could have unlimited testing time in the car, for me his problem is he just doesnt know the new cars like he did the old when he could test to death and know how the car would react in any given situation, once he knew then he factored that into his driving, as he suffers from motion sickness in simulators thenthis lack of testing is hampering his driving style.

    Another good one abu

    • abu says:

      Yes, lack of testing has hurt – I wouldn’t give so much emphasis to the simulator thing. It’s mostly used by teams to simulate car developments and to familiarize drivers with the tracks’ layout. This is why most of the sim work is being done by the reserve drivers anyway. However, isn’t it ironic that this lack of testing is exactly the factor that allowed Schumacher back to the sport?

      • Geradenheizer says:

        Hi,

        i have a question why the lack of testing brought him back. I think he even took only 2 or 3 test days in a private car before he said “yes we go”.
        I would suggest that drivers like vettel tested a lot in str years and vettel was a friday driver in bmw before, but maybe he also had tested back then.
        -> can todays f1 rookies test? isnt that the reason why all the rookies cant perform? all guys being 3years in f1 now had at least one year of testing. now the preseason testing is 4x 4 days ?

        once was quoted Schumacher did 40.000km in 200? in the Ferrari. 500kms per day 60 days preseason 40 days in season (?)
        But that is the quesion: i think he would come back to 90% of where he was (now the quickness in mind is lower, but the experience is still there. but: he could be fast back then without experience in his first year because he was just totally committed and never needed a break because of his physical and mental fitness.
        So i see more and more arguments why he would go back to 90%; but all the other drivers could learn too.
        one thing is for sure: take away electronic throttle, super DIFFs and a super suspension (1998mclaren suspension damper was revolutionary, in 1994 the cars were still having much less grip over uneven surface). make the chassis wider (2metres), let the cars bounce again in corners. and make the aero more like planks on the cars instead of super flow onto the aero in all situations. and suddenly you will have a driver factor. fear and exhaustion at those drivers who cant deal it 90minutes anymore.
        if you then would put in a H-shifter ….
        i think then his todays 90% would suffice to be the top driver with 0.2 seconds over the second-fastest driver (a lot less than 1995).

        with todays equipment he could be 0.2 slower than the fastest drivers. but today maybe 5 drivers are in that range. so its quite all about the car and: not losing time in bad situations instead of gaining general speed. and there he is very good with all his experience.

        cant he buy a private 2010 (211 is not allowed i think) and test every day privately ?

      • abu says:

        Hi mate. The testing ban allowed Michael to return because he had more time available for his family between the races and during the off season. By his own admission (http://totalf1.com/details/view/409755/Schumacher_admits_test_ban_led_to_F1_comeback/) he wouldn’t have returned if testing was as extensive and time-consuming as it used to be back in his Ferrari days…
        :)

  17. A fantastic article.

    You have truly rekindled my love for this sport. I have been reading all your posts ever since a very good friend of mine pointed me in this direction. He too follows you ardently, and has been since your good old forum days.

    You bring a fresh perspective and a pleasant attitude to a sport that is now serviced by a massive number of hacks.

    I am now really looking forward to this season. Thank you Abu. :)

    • abu says:

      This may be the single best thing anyone has ever said to me… I am very happy I helped a little bit in rekindling your love of the sport, I hope we will get to enjoy together a great season….

      Thanks mate… :)

  18. just me says:

    I liked this part more than the first one since I hadn’t to study onboard footage. ;-)
    I understood better what the difference in driving style is about and that it is not only the difference of braking late or early but also about using and controling your slide for positioning the car.

    What I really enjoyed though were the reminiscences of Michaels achievements and that those were in fact great achievements and not only a product of fastest car + unlimited testing ressources.

  19. Gabi says:

    abu check this…

    This is why…Schumacher is really the greatest of all times.

  20. Banibhusan Panda says:

    Hi Abu,

    Indeed a great read on MSC’s driving style. One of the few available on the open source.

    I have a question for you. You said Kimi Raikkonen is superb in weight transfer situations. Could you please explain a bit better about his driving style and how he manages the weight transfer?

    Best Regards,

    • abu says:

      Hi mate, yes I am planning at some stage to do a Kimi article… Stay tuned… ;)

      • Roger says:

        And maybe, some comments on how you do your analysis and arrive at your conclusions, without (presumably?) having access to the relevant telemetry? Thanks!

      • abu says:

        Yeah, it would have been sooooooo nice to have access to the telemetry. One can draw many more conclusions, and safer, by looking at the telemetry, but we will have to accept that we can’t have access to it, and live with that. My analysis is based on years upon years of watching onboard footage and comparing laps – nothing more, nothing less. Sometimes you can even tell just by watching the cars from the outside, but it’s tricky. In any case, I’ve only written about stuff that I am confident on – there’s many more thoughts and ideas that remain hidden in my brain because I am not convinced they are correct… ;)

      • Roger says:

        Cheers :-)

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