ROME: Italian and German media are struggling to digest Michael Schumacher’s slow start to the Formula One season, but on Monday refused to write off Ferrari’s champion just yet.
Five-time world champion Schumacher made his second blunder in two races under pressure on Sunday and could only watch the Malaysian Grand Prix celebrations from afar after finishing a disappointing sixth.
“After the mess-up in Melbourne, no-one expected the scene in Sepang – a first-lap crash between the still wet-behind-the-ears driver and the bully,” La Gazzetta dello Sport said, referring to Schumacher’s shunting of Jarno Trulli.
“But I don’t think the criticism will last even a month,” columnist Candido Cannavo continued, describing Schumacher as “the perfect fusion of man and computer, of heart and technology”.
“Those who just can’t wait to skin him alive will have to bite their tongues again before long,” he added.
In Schumacher’s German homeland, however, the mood was more frantic.
“Schumi is losing his nerves,” the tabloid Bild said in a banner headline, showing a large picture of Schumacher holding his head in disbelief. “The pressure is rising and rising.”
“You’re not going to get the title this way, Dumi,” the B.Z. said, punning the driver’s nickname with the German word for “stupid”.
Schumacher is now sixth in the overall drivers’ standings.
The media in both countries acknowledged a changing of the F1 guard could be under way after 23-year-old Finn Kimi Raikkonen’s weekend victory.
Germany’s B.Z. tipped its hat to the four “young and wild” drivers who finished in the top eight in Malaysia.
“The 20-somethings at the podium,” ran La Gazzetta dello Sport’s headline, but there was a hint of the patronising too.
The paper’s caption alongside a photo of the victorious Raikkonen described him “like a small boy who’s just been given the present he’s always dreamed of”.
The Italian paper suggested Ferrari and Schumacher were reeling from a number of significant rule changes implemented this season.
“It (rule changes) wasn’t specifically an anti-Ferrari operation ... but they’re suffering. They are completely lacking last season’s serenity,” the Gazzetta wrote, though it added that this could have a positive knock-on effect.
“(Ferrari boss Luca di) Montezemolo will never agree, but their dazed performance and the new rules have revived the global interest in F1.” – Reuters