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Poor qualifying for Mercedes

NEWS STORY
06/10/2012

Mat Coch writes:

The Japanese Grand Prix was always likely to be a difficult one for Michael Schumacher, though the German feels Lewis Hamilton made the situation worse during qualifying.

Schumacher was handed a ten-place grid penalty for causing an avoidable incident with Jean-Eric Vergne in Singapore. Triggering the second safety car period of the race it was first suspected to be a car failure, before stewards deemed it driver error. The severe penalty handed down came in the wake of Romain Grosjean's single race ban following the Belgian Grand Prix, and after Charles Pic was handed a community service sentence for passing under red flags in Singapore.

As a result, Schumacher's hopes for qualifying were never high, more so given the Mercedes has looked unsuited to circuits with long corners all year, a point conceded by the German. "Knowing the high-speed characteristics of this circuit, we didn't necessarily expect to look in great shape here."

However when Schumacher only just managed the thirteenth fastest time it consigned the former seven-time champion to the final row of the grid once his penalty was applied. It left the German frustrated since he felt he was capable of more.

"The data showed that I lost two-tenths in turn 11 because of traffic," the 43-year-old lamented. "I wasn't quite sure what Hamilton was doing ahead of me… Perhaps I could have made it through to Q3." No action was taken against Hamilton, who fared little better than his rival in setting the ninth best time after being caught out by the spinning Kimi Raikkonen at the end of the qualifying hour.

While on the surface it looks a dismal state of affairs there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Surrounded by HRT's, Marussia's and Caterham's Schumacher will enjoy a car advantage as he battles through traffic during tomorrow's race. Should he clear the tail-enders the Mercedes driver has another trick up his sleeve. "I saved a lot of tyre sets and in that respect got the maximum out of the situation," he revealed.

"We need to wait and see what happens tomorrow," he added. "I will be certainly aiming for the best possible result starting from the back of the grid."

It was also a difficult day for teammate Nico Robserg, who set just the fifteenth fastest time. Thanks to Schumacher and Jean-Eric Vergne's penalties Rosberg will ultimately start thirteenth, a fact that gives little consolation to the team's top brass.

"It goes without saying that we're not happy to see both cars knocked out in Q2," confessed a deflated Ross Brawn. "We've done a lot of work in the last few races exploring the performance variables of the car and whilst that has increased our understanding, it's still not enough to be competitive."

Mercedes motor sport boss Norbert Haug was more succinct: "We will not be in the grid positions where we would have liked to start the race from."

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