Michael Schumacher provided some of the most exciting moments of a gripping Italian Grand Prix today in Monza has he had ‘big fun’ defending his position from the faster McLaren of Lewis Hamilton during much of the race.
Whilst the seven-time world champion scored a strong result for the team by finishing in fifth place, the other Mercedes of Nico Rosberg was taken out of the race at the first chicane when the German became the innocent victim of the accident caused by Vitantonio Liuzzi.
Schumacher got an excellent start and moved from eighth to fourth on the opening lap, bringing the total number of places he has gained on the first lap this season to 35. He overtook Hamilton when the race was restarted on Lap 5 and there began the epic battle between the two world champions.
“It was an exciting race today, both for me and I think for all of our fans, and that is why I am happy,” said Schumacher. “The fighting against Lewis was big fun, and my mirrors seemed to be very small at times. We are both known for driving on the limit, and that is what we did. I had to make my car as wide as a truck, and had to stretch the possible as much as I could, but in the end, as expected, he was still faster.
“The start was ideal, I held back on purpose at first in order to use the grip perfectly afterwards, and then the left side was all free. To make the most of your possibilities is the maximum possible at times, and that is why I had fun today, especially knowing that there is more to come in the future, with all the support we have from Mercedes.”
Rosberg, of course, was forced to watch all this action from the garage, unable to continue after that first corner accident. “It was a disappointing race for me today in Monza,” he said. “I had a difficult start on my prime tyres but still managed to gain a place at the first corner, so it was quite good. Then Liuzzi flew like a torpedo over the grass and put me out of the race. It’s a pity because I had a strong strategy and, as Michael’s good result showed, our car was very strong this afternoon.”
Team principal Ross Brawn described some of the defending that Schumacher pulled-off against Hamilton today as ‘vintage Michael’ but was disappointed that the unusual tyre strategy for Rosberg did not have a chance to bear fruit.
“A fantastic drive from Michael today, and I’m sure he really enjoyed his racing out there,” commented Brawn. “The boys have done a great job with our starts this year, and Michael was able to get away well and show his race craft in the first part of the race. Then he settled into a really tough battle with the McLarens, particularly Lewis, which was great racing and vintage Michael. We haven’t quite got a car that’s quick enough yet but we are all pleased with Michael’s fifth place today.
“For Nico, it was a short and not at all sweet afternoon. We had an exciting strategy starting him on the prime tyres, and looking at how those tyres performed on other cars at the beginning of the race, it would have been very interesting to see how it developed. It’s doubly frustrating that he was taken out by a car starting in 24th position.
“If you get tangled up at the first corner because you are vying for position, that’s racing, but to be swiped out by someone that far back is hard to take. However, we have shown as a team that when we do have the right car, we will be able to compete at the front, and that’s our inspiration for next year.”