Date:Tuesday June 26 2012
Last weekend Michael Schumacher returned to the podium for the first time since October 2006 at Shanghai.
While Schumacher kept his head while all around him drivers were losing theirs, the Mercedes driver picked up an unexpected third place finish.
Throughout practice the Mercedes showed good pace throughout three close practice sessions.
In FP1 Schumacher was just 0.227s behind Maldonado, FP2 a similar gap of 0.267 separated him and Vettel who topped the timing sheets, then on the Saturday in FP3 he was 0.579s behind Button.
It all pointed towards a very competitive qualifying, although it ended in disappointing fashion for Schumacher.
His time of 1m38.770s was just 0.067 seconds off the cut-off point for Q3 so despite being close to the fastest time set in the session [all the top cars were within a quarter of second], the seven-time former Formula One World Champion would not take part in the final session of qualifying and would have to settle for 12th place on the grid.
But despite blaming the result on himself, the German appeared remarkably relaxed about the situation and immediately focussed on the positives of qualifying outside of the top ten.
'What a close qualifying session. Of course, I'm not particularly happy about not making it through Q2 but that was clearly down to me - I didn't get my lap together. On my first run, I was too aggressive in turn 12 on my first timed lap, then had to abort the second lap and pit because the tyres were no longer in good enough condition to improve. After that, I was a bit too conservative on the second run and that cost us, because the times were so close today. On the other hand, my starting position opens up strategic possibilities for tomorrow.' he told formula1.com immediately after qualifying.
Perhaps having the pressure lifted from his shoulders following what appeared a poor qualifying session helped ease him into the race.
He kept his nose clean, something he hasn't done very frequently this season and he put his Mercedes in the right position to take advantage of all the incidents that happened in front of him.
The Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel broke down whilst in the lead, then the Lotus of Romain Grosjean also broke down whilst challenging for the race win, then there was a collision between the third placed McLaren of Lewis Hamilton and the fourth placed Williams of Pastor Maldonado, all these incidents elevated Schumacher to the podium.
'Wow, I did not even think of getting on the podium for any second in the race today, so what a wonderful result! Finally it happened! After such a long time waiting and for jumping on the podium so unexpectedly, I feel extra happy. I think that was the best answer to give to everybody who started doubting our work: get the car together and fight back; never give up, as anything can happen. A big thank you to the team and to everybody who kept on believing we would get on the podium again. That's what team work is about.'
It really was a surprise to Schumacher to finish on the podium, so much so that he hadn't even realised it when he crossed the line at the end of the race.
'I didn't think a podium was possible - not even at the end of the race, because it was pretty busy in the last laps and I had lost count of where I was. Then when I crossed the line, I asked the guys where I was and they said 'Third - on the podium!' It's one of those moments that you enjoy deeply as a driver. We were close a couple of times but it was great for it to happen in a spectacular race like this, through strategy and lots of passing on a circuit where overtaking is difficult.'
This podium position was the first podium since his return to Formula One with the Mercedes team and the 156th of his career.
Date:Tuesday June 26 2012
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