Valencia, 25 June 2012: A driver is as good as a car, might not be true always. But definitely the car influences the results and it is an accepted fact in Formula One, the pinnacle of motorsport. Seven-time world champion, Michael Schumacher finished third in an incident filled race on Sunday but was called by the stewards. However, the Vodafone Mercedes McLaren driver kept his first podium finish since 2006, despite a post-race investigation into the possibility that he had not slowed down for yellow flags during the European Grand Prix in Valencia, adds an FIA release.
The veteran racer had driven superbly from 12th on the grid to third and had hailed his best result since first in Shanghai in 2006 as a “deeply enjoyable” moment. However, the celebrations had to be put on hold as the Mercedes driver was summoned before the race stewards over a possible infringement.
After meeting with the seven-time champion and Mercedes’ representatives, though, the stewards were satisfied that data from the car showed the German had slowed significantly in the instance in question and his third place stands.
Schumacher only rose to the podium position in the latter stages of the race after he made a late stop on lap 41 for new soft tyres. Afterwards, as the leaders’ older prime tyres began to lose performance, Schumacher carved his way through the pack.
And when Lewis Hamilton and Pastor Maldonado clashed two laps from home, Schumacher suddenly found himself third, though afterwards the Mercedes driver had no idea of his position.
“I didn’t actually think about a podium at all at the end of the race,” he said. “It was crossing the line that I asked my guys ‘where did we finish?’ I saw [Mark] Webber’s pit board, and close to the end it showed him eighth and [then] seventh and I knew I was one place ahead of that. And then boys told me ‘that’s third, that’s podium’.
“I can’t believe it! It’s something I didn’t really expect,” he added. “Being pretty heavily involved for most of the race in some kind of battling and then having Webber all the time on my tail and needing to fight forward but needing to pay attention to the back, that was very exciting. But that’s what I’m here for: to be excited and those guys got me excited, no doubt. And hearing finally the message P3 – yeah, that’s a sweet finish.”
Schumacher admitted, too, that he result had only been made possible by a late-race strategy change.
“We obviously had a late decision converting from a one-stop to a two-stop strategy, which meant we had good tyres towards the end of the race,” he said. “Other people either did a one or an early two-stop strategy and therefore struggled by the end because they had no tyres left.
“All weekend, I predicted this to be a difficult one for us and it started to be difficult yesterday in qualifying, mainly because of my own mistakes and to recover from where we are, getting to third position is just awesome,” he concluded. “The team and myself have been criticised here and there, particularly lately, and this is the best way to answer criticism, to go back and deliver as we did today, and therefore I’m proud, thankful and very excited.”
Team-mate Nico Rosberg also profited from the strategy and, remarkably, rose from 11th to sixth in the final two laps.
“That was a really exciting race,” he said. “After the restart, I thought I would end up finishing out of the points, because I had the oldest tyres and therefore no grip, which made it very hard to defend. We had planned to try a one-stop strategy but had to convert to two stops, and thanks to the strategy guys, we were on fresh tyres when everybody else was struggling.
“I was in P12 on lap 48 and P6 at the end, so it clearly worked and we are very happy with a good team result after such a chaotic race, with two cars in the top six. A great result for Michael with his podium and I am happy to score some more nice points.”