Rosberg v. Schumacher, 2012Overview
Since his comeback in 2010, Michael Schumacher has drawn the attention of many Formula One followers--for positive and negative reasons. The underlying hope held by many of his fans was that Schumacher would be up to speed immediately, and helping Mercedes towards the front of the grid sooner rather than later. But after the first few races of 2010, and throughout 2011, the hope began to fade as reality took on a very different picture: Schumacher was being outpaced on a number of occasions by his young teammate, Nico Rosberg.
When tested by conventional standards, Nico Rosberg's true potential remains a mystery--his years at Williams are simultaneously cited as being proof that he has talent and proof that he will never be a champion. Generally, opinion on his time at Mercedes is quite similar. One thing is clear, however: his high salary indicates that the brain-trust at Mercedes has faith in him, and his results over the past two years have done little to indicate that this trust is misplaced.
Michael Schumacher is regarded as the senior driver at Mercedes for his 20+ years in Formula One. A veteran of nearly three-hundred Grand Prix weekends, a winner of ninety-one races, and a seven-time world champion, there are few records that Michael Schumacher has not claimed during his Formula One career. But records and stats only go so far. Since his time at Mercedes, Schumacher has been criticised for his poor form in comparison to his teammate and the impact his comeback will have on his legacy. Though 2010 and 2011 were statistically two of his worst seasons in Formula One, Schumacher has left the door open for a continuation of his comeback beyond 2012.
Nico Rosberg is the highest-paid driver on the Formula One grid to have never won a race. Despite consistently out-qualifying his teammate and finishing ahead of Schumacher in the Drivers' World Championship for two years in a row, he has retained the team's even-numbered car and yellow t-cam during his time at the team--distinctions which generally indicate number-two driver status among the top teams. Rosberg has maintained that he is not intimidated by Schumacher, but admits that the has a respect for the sport's most-successful driver in terms of statistics. Rosberg's contract with Mercedes extends beyond 2013.
What 2012 Means for Them
Nico Rosberg is looking for a continuation of his form at Mercedes into 2012, maintaining his statistical position as team leader and torch-bearer at the Mercedes AMG Grand Prix Team. He will be coming into 2012 from a position of strength, looking to guide the team to victories and, potentially, a chance at the World Championship. Rosberg's qualifying record and race performances indicate he will be both a strong and reliable force going into 2012. With plenty of years before him, Rosberg's future is still ahead of him--his star is rising, and it could start rising faster in 2012. A victory over Schumacher for the third year in a row would certainly boost his reputation and make him an attractive prospect to top teams who might help fulfill his championship aspirations if success at Mercedes fails to materialise.
Michael Schumacher's situation could be described as 'critical' at best. Schumacher has been at the tail end of the Mercedes operation for two consecutive years, and collisions with other drivers and poor qualifying performances have been his most prominent weaknesses since his comeback. But among his numerous errors have been flashes of brilliance--his charge towards the front in a sopping-wet Canadian Grand Prix and an inspiring drive from the back of the grid at the famous Spa-Francorchamps among these. The ever-present question stands: can Schumacher make this positive form permanent, or are these occasional sterling drives the last shards of glory Schumacher has to offer? Can he recover enough of his former pace to be successful before it's gone forever?
The stage is set, and winter testing is about to begin. Mercedes has gone all-out on hiring engineers to strengthen its car development process. Will 2012 finally be their year? Will Schumacher mount a comeback within a comeback and finally give Rosberg a serious run for his money? Or will Rosberg deal a knockout blow and perhaps send Schumacher packing once and for all?
It's age and experience versus youth and enthusiasm, round three, at the Mercedes AMG Grand Prix Team in 2012. The fight is on.