Long-serving Mercedes staff reveal 'heartbreak' of Schumacher failing to win for Silver Arrows
Some of the longest-serving Mercedes staff members have revealed their "heartbreak" that Michael Schumacher was unable to get back to the top step of the podium on his F1 comeback with the Silver Arrows, in the latest edition of the Beyond The Grid podcast.
There are four special guests in the latest bumper episode of Beyond The Grid this week with chief engineer Simon Cole, trackside engineering director Andrew Shovlin, chief strategist James Vowles and sporting director Ron Meadows having been with the team not just since Mercedes took over Brawn GP at the end of 2009, but all the way back to the outfit's original incarnation as BAR – with Meadows' first job in 1997 overseeing the build of the factory the team still operates from today.
For 2010, Mercedes signed seven-time champion Schumacher – who had been out of Grand Prix racing since 2006 – alongside young German Nico Rosberg, and while initial results were decent, the team had to wait for 2012 for a pole position. It was delivered in stunning fashion by none other than Schumacher at the Monaco Grand Prix. However, the champion already had a five-place grid penalty from the previous race, leaving him starting from P6 and his hopes of a win in tatters.
On the podcast, Mercedes strategist Vowles recalled the pole position and shot at victory. He said: “I was over the moon and I think it was one of the best laps he’d probably ever done in his life… but I was heartbroken, truly heartbroken for him that this is a guy that we all wanted – around this table and within the factory – for him to win a race, because he deserved it frankly, and he put so much effort into the team and so much of his life into the team that it was payback for him and that was his opportunity through the year.
“And I was heartbroken with the fact that that one race was where he dropped back. I felt for him – I still feel now – he didn’t get all the results that he deserved give the amount he was putting in the team.”
Meadows added: “Given how he helped us improve, I think certainly my biggest regret was not seeing Michael win a race for us, because he was a different level of driver we’d ever worked with at that point.
“I really believe, we all wanted him to win. It didn’t happen. A couple of years later we couldn’t stop winning and he deserves some of that because the reason we’re winning today, a lot was down to him because he made us better.”
Vowles explained that Schumacher still exuded talent but that his age – he was 43 in his final season of F1 with Mercedes – was perhaps becoming a limiting factor.
“The thing that wasn’t perhaps picked up from before is one of the things that made him incredibly strong is actually something we’ve picked up on now, but he knew where he was weak and he accepted where he was weak and tried to improve on that all the time,” said Vowles.
“He had shortcomings in terms of how he was able to drive the car relative to Nico, but he was very conscious and aware of that and doing what he could to remedy those areas. But the areas which, in truth, part of it was age, where he wouldn’t be helped to find anything on it, were there. I think he also knew that was his time.
“I just wish he won his race because one more year, that would have been a fantastic year for him,” concluded Vowles.
Listen to the full, absorbing interview with Mercedes’ ‘Fab Four’ in the player above, on Spotify, or Apple Podcasts, and hear more about their time behind the scenes at BAR Honda, Brawn GP, and the Mercedes takeover that has so far led to seven drivers’ and constructors’ championships.