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Formula 1

Mercedes Tailor Barcelona Upgrades To Salvage Schumacher’s Season

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Mercedes are working hard to prepare a car for the next grand prix in Barcelona which will suit Michael Schumacher's driving style, in an attempt to revive his faltering F1 comeback.

The seven-time world champion has recorded mediocre results on his return from his three-year 'retirement', while his young teammate Nico Rosberg has already accumulated five times as many points and sits second in the driver's championship after four races.

The team hope that modifications to the handling, as well as a raft of aerodynamic upgrades, will turnaround Schumacher's season.

A longer wheel base on the upgraded car will mean the front wheels to be situated further forward from the cockpit, which will speed airflow along the car and increase the downward thrust on the front tyres. Weight distribution more biased towards the front end will provide Schumacher with more front grip, allowing a faster turn-in to corners and making it quicker to change direction, which will better suit his natural driving style.

Assuming they work, these upgrades couldn't be any more welcome. Schumacher seemed to spend most of the race in China slipping backwards through the field, a problem believed to be linked to weight being distributed more to the back of the car. It is thought that Schumacher's innate driving style caused the rear tyres to degrade more quickly, and on an unforgiving track like in Shanghai, this would only hurt lap times.

At the venue where he scored his 91st and most recent win, Schumacher finished the race tenth while Nico Rosberg was stood on the third step of the podium.

Speaking to the BBC, Mercedes Team Principal Ross Brawn acknowledged that his driver hasn't been as competitive as he would have liked when so far. “It’s foolish to say Michael is where he wants to be but he’s very determined to succeed. I think these frustrations are just going to make him try even harder.”

Brawn suspects that if the upgrades are a success in Spain, the team's chances this season are still very much alive. “We’ve not had a fantastic start but we are still in there because no-one else is really dominating either – there is still plenty of opportunity.”

Judging by the sentiments of both Brawn and Norbert Haug in Shanghai, Mercedes clearly feel that it is their responsibility to provide Schumacher with a better car, and that the German is doing all he can with the tools he has been given.

However, this reasoning seems somewhat flawed when the performance of Rosberg is taken into account. He has out-qualified and out-raced Schumacher, who his 17 years his senior, in all four of the opening races. The younger German has used his experience of the raft of technical changes in the last few seasons to good effect, and has adapted to the MGP W01 well. Consistently outperforming Schumacher will do wonders for his confidence as he hunts for his first race win.

Schumacher is clearly yet to recapture the form that made him statistically the greatest F1 driver of all time. His race in Australia was compromised by a first lap incident, and a loose wheel nut ended his Malaysian Grand Prix, but sixth place in Bahrain remains his best result in 2010 and there has been little indication that he will add to his tally of 91 race wins anytime soon.

Bernie Ecclestone said last week that the 41-year old Schumacher will win races this season. Even with the upgrades on his car it still seems unlikely that Michael will claim his seventh Barcelona victory, but his performance in Spain could be seen as a step in the right direction.

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David is an occasional contributer to the site on matters related to Formula 1. You can follow him on twitter at @Dr_Bean.
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