Michael Schumacher came from the back of the field to finish fifth in a special Belgian Grand Prix that marked 20th anniversary of the seven-time world champion’s 1991 debut at Spa-Francorchamps.
Schumacher, who suffered an accident in qualifying, successfully avoided the first corner melee caused by Bruno Senna. The German then battled through the field, at times demonstrating the form he showed back in his era of dominance before finishing with a satisfying flourish as he overtook Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg in the closing laps.
“A wonderful ending to a wonderful weekend here in Spa,” commented Schumacher. “I think more than fifth place would not have been possible today but making up 19 places was a good feeling. With all my family, friends and fans here, it was an extra motivation, and I would like to thank all of them for their support. They saw an exciting race with a great strategy from our team.
“So all in all, for me, there was a lot of emotion and a lot of overtaking today. At the beginning I was a bit afraid that some of the flying parts [from the accident] might hit and damage my car, but I was lucky that nothing happened. After that, I had big fun hunting and making my way forward.”
Rosberg had an excellent start from fifth place and was leading by the end of the first lap. He could not keep the charging Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari drivers behind him though, and eventually had to settle for sixth place.
“I had a great start today and it was a special feeling to be leading the race in a Silver Arrow at this amazing circuit,” he said. “It was great to see the traffic jam behind me with the Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari cars, but it was hard to realise that we just don’t have the pace to stay at the top. However we have made progress this weekend and today was a good result for the team.
“I had to push quite hard at the start and in the middle which cost me a little towards the end, which combined with Michael being on the faster soft tyres, meant that I wasn’t able to keep him behind me. Now I’m looking forward to Monza and I’m confident that we can improve further.”
Team principal Ross Brawn congratulated both drivers on their efforts at Spa-Francorchamps. “Both drivers did a great job this afternoon on quite different strategies,” he explained.
“Michael began the race on the medium tyre and got that stint of his race out of the way quickly by stopping on lap four and changing to the soft compound. The Safety Car then worked in his favour by allowing him to catch up to the cars in front, and he was obviously on the better tyre in the final laps when he was catching Nico. It’s a very nice result for him on this anniversary weekend, and especially after starting from dead last.
“Nico ran a two-stop strategy and, although it was a little marginal with tyre performance at times, he drove an excellent race to sixth place. Towards the end, we told him to trim his fuel: although we had a Safety Car period, one doesn’t use this to save fuel under the current rules because any fuel saved is simply extra weight carried through the rest of the race, and at that point his fuel consumption was on target.
“In any case, it didn’t cost him a significant amount of lap time, and the decisive factor was that Michael was on the soft tyre at the end while Nico was on the medium, which was around a second a lap slower. Overall, it was a very good team result and our best points score of the season so far.”