Sauber was already almost as quick as Mercedes in qualifying and the difference between qualy pace and race pace have always been big regarding Sauber and Mercedes, this year.
Why would you say that? I had seen no data that underlines this. (genuine question)
I mean, Sauber always is much better in races than in qualifying and conversely, Mercedes is always better in qualifying than races. Plus, tire wear is high in Suzuka and Mercedes is a tire eater while Sauber is very gentle to the tires.
As a result, if nobody ahead of Schumi, in the grid, have a DNF, then I think 8th is the best possible.