Kimi whispers, Schumi yells
Coach Rob Wilson says the reason for the contrasting fortunes of comeback-men Raikkonen and Schumacher is their different driving styles. Vinayak Pande writes. Notes from the coach | When Kimi met Schumi | Back and forthindia Updated: May 20, 2012 02:13 IST
Michael Schumacher may have just two points in his points tally after five races along with a five-place starting grid penalty for the Monaco Grand Prix, but the points don't tell the full story. Luck has not been on the German's side and it has started to get to him. As was evident by the way he furiously described Bruno Senna an 'idiot' on his radio during the Spanish Grand Prix while attempting to overtake him. The inevitable happened on lap 13, as Schumacher rammed the Brazilian from behind. He has been handed a five-place penalty on the starting grid for the upcoming Monaco GP.
Two potential podiums (and maybe even a race win) have gone begging through no fault of his own. Schumacher's struggles of his comeback season in 2010 and the early part of 2011 seem to be over.
However, he has been beaten to a return to the podium by the returning Kimi Raikkonen. The ice-cool and publicity shy Finn, who was spotted asleep in a chair in the Australian GP paddock, has even come close to winning the last two races in Bahrain and Spain. One could be mistaken for thinking that the 2007 world champion, known as the 'Iceman' for his largely expressionless demeanour and taciturn oratory skills, had never left F1 at all.
There are two reasons why the Finn has been instantly back on the pace as compared to Schumacher. The first has to do with what Schumacher and Raikkonen were doing in their respective three and two years away from F1.
Schumacher was enjoying his retirement and with the exception of a few races in the German Superbike Championship -- where he struggled -- there was no serious competitive racing. Raikkonen, on the other hand, competed in 21 rounds of the World Rally Championship where he finished in the points 11 times, including a fifth place in Turkey in 2010.
That explains why Schumacher took so much longer to get up to speed. The second reason gives an insight into why Schumacher has publicly criticised the tyres supplied by F1's official tyre manufacturer Pirelli while Raikkonen is in fourth place in the drivers' championship, just 12 points behind joint-leaders Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
"Kimi whispers to the car, he doesn't yell at it." These are the words of a man who is not surprised by Raikkonen's storming comeback; Rob Wilson. The Briton is the world's most renowned racing driver coach whose clients include not only Raikkonen, but Nico Rosberg and Pastor Maldonado, who have scored their maiden F1 wins this year.
"Michael (Schumacher) has an awful lot of energy spikes in his driving," Wilson told HT. "Which basically means he has a lot of aggressive throttle and steering inputs."
Schumacher's aggressive car control also spills on to his off-track preparations as proved by the German's high levels of fitness and attention to detail that borders on obsession.
Raikkonen is by far the more patient driver, Wilson argues, which allows the Finn to become "absolutely at one" with an F1 car. "He doesn't throw a car into corners," said Wilson. "He will manipulate it with very subtle direction changes."
The result, according to Wilson, is that Raikkonen uses a lot less fuel than other drivers over the course of a race and is much gentler on the car's tyres. Both these factors play a crucial role in the outcome of a race as refueling has been banned since 2010 and the tyres have been built with the intention of wearing out fairly quickly to encourage closer racing.
It is also very much in Raikkonen's nature to take things in his stride with nonchalance and a devil-may-care attitude. As was proved at the 2006 Brazilian GP when the Finn told a live television broadcaster that he missed football legend Pele presenting Schumacher a retirement trophy because he was relieving himself at the time.
Schumacher is, of course, more accustomed to the days when an F1 tyre supplier would manufacture tyres with the sole intention of providing maximum performance and durability. Before Pirelli came along in 2011 and designed tyres with the purpose of spicing up the show, even a single tyre supplier would focus on performance alone.
So while Schumacher remains the more illustrious of the two due to his seven titles compared to Raikkonen's one, maybe in this new era of F1, the demanding perfectionist could learn a thing or two from the master of keeping his cool.