Schumacher takes poor qualifying effort personally

DEAN MCNULTY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:52 PM ET

MONTREAL — Michael Schumacher took his worst qualifying effort ever in Canada personally on Saturday.

And why not. The eight time Formula One world champion has his name etched into the win column of the Canadian Grand Prix seven times — more than any other driver in history.

So for Schumacher to bow out of qualifying before the final round had even begun was humiliating to say the least.

His best lap of one minute 16:598 seconds wasn’t even fast enough for his Mercedes to move on to the final round and it was a long way off Lewis Hamilton’s pole winning time of 1:15.105.

Schumacher will start 13th on Sunday.

“I am obviously disappointed after today’s qualifying,” a sombre Schumacher said in a media scrum a short distance from the start-finish line. “We simply did not have the balance or grip and overall we had a lot of problems with braking and handling.”

That pretty much summed up a horrible afternoon for the 41-year-old German and the whole Mercedes team.

It was hoped that Schumacher, who has struggled mightily in his comeback effort this season after a three-year retirement, would find his groove at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve — his most successful venue of his uber-successful career.

He said that no matter what he and his engineers tried on Saturday to get more speed and grip out of his car, nothing worked.

“The car was just not performing as we expected,” he said. “We had similar issues (Friday) afternoon and we made some changes after second practice.

“This morning, the changes seemed to have made sense as our position was reasonable but this afternoon, I was facing similar issues again.”

The Mercedes crew will be working overtime in an attempt to find and fix whatever is wrong with the MGP W01 in time for Sunday’s race.

Schumacher wasn’t holding out much hope in finding more speed, but added that an improved race strategy might be the team’s only hope of finishing among the leaders on Sunday.

“It’s difficult to understand the reasons (we are slow) at the moment but we will look deeply into it now and find a good strategy for the race tomorrow,” he said.

Saturday wasn’t much better for his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg, who could only manage the 10th quickest lap with a time of 1:16.071.

But at least he made it to the final 10.

“It is very disappointing to be starting in tenth place but anything can happen in the race so we can only look forward and take advantage where possible tomorrow,” Rosberg said.

It was especially disconcerting for Mercedes team principle Ross Brawn, who was the architect behind the pan to bring Schumacher back to F-1 to seek a ninth world championship.

“A very disappointing qualifying session for us, particularly as I was quite encouraged by our performance Friday and this morning,” he said in a team statement. “However when it came to qualifying, we just weren’t able to put our laps together.”

Notes

Put it down to poutine power.

At least that is the best explanation that rising Quebec racing star Bruno Spengler has on why French Canadian race car drivers find so much success on tracks around the world.

In the past 15 years, championship drivers like Jacques Villeneuve, Patrick Carpentier, Alex Tagliani and a long list of sports car racers have been developed in La Belle Provence.

“Maybe it’s the poutine,” Spengler, who currently leads the DTM championship — the top sports car loop in Europe, said. “Or maybe it’s that Quebec winters are so long once they are over we want to go as fast as we can anywhere we can.”

Help wanted

Poland’s Robert Kubica never thought that after just two full seasons in Formula One, he’s have to start looking in the want ads for a job.

He is the defending champion of the Canadian GP as a result of his 2008 win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, but he’s without a contract once he finishes this season with Renault.

There were rumours that Ferrari was interested in signing the 25-year-old, but that opportunity went away when the Italian squad re-signed Filpe Massa.

Kubica, however, said his focus is on winning this year.

“At some point I will have to make a decision about the future and then I will make it, but I am too busy thinking about the current situation and races,” he said Saturday.

NASCAR beckons

Former F-1 driver Jan Magnussen has signed a deal to race next week in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series Toyota SaveMart 350 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Magnussen will attempt to qualify the No. 09 Phoenix Racing Chevrolet, the same car Canada’s Ron Fellows drove last season at Infineon.

“It’s no secret that NASCAR has been a goal of mine, and I’m very appreciative of the opportunity Phoenix Racing is providing,” Magnussen said. “Through my relationship with GM, I’ve had the chance test for Hendrick Motorsports, so I’m comfortable in the Sprint Cup cars and understand what to expect.

“I’m quite familiar with the racetrack and confident in my ability to compete at a high level. It will be an exciting weekend, and I look forward to the entire experience.”

dean.mcnulty@sunmedia.ca


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