Gerhard Berger has backed Michael Schumacher amid a climate of continuing criticism of the seven time world champion’s performance so far in 2010.
Four races into 41-year-old Schumacher’s F1 comeback at the wheel of a Mercedes, the critique of pundits has ranged from a verdict of disappointment to a harsh denigration of his skills after three years of retirement.
“I find all the talk about Michael a bit tedious, because it is always with a negative slant,” 10-time GP winner Berger, who raced in Schumacher’s era until retiring in 1997, said on Austrian TV ‘Sport und Talk aus dem Hangar 7’.
“Michael has come back and is doing what he wants. I think you cannot change the status of someone who is a seven time world champion,” added the 50-year-old former Ferrari and McLaren driver.
Austrian Berger backs Schumacher to improve his pace in the forthcoming races.
“We know his ambition. We know that if he does something, he does it right. I think we must take him seriously again in the future,” he said.
After the initial three races of 2010, Berger admits that Schumacher’s performance in China was a setback.
“It was weak, but that can happen,” said the former teammate of the late F1 great Ayrton Senna.
“I think he has done an excellent job so far — except for the last race. In the first three grands prix he was in the top six of the championship. That is a great achievement,” added Berger.
Also defending Schumacher is his countryman and friend Sebastian Vettel, who until the great German’s struggle in 2010 was nicknamed by the German press ‘Baby-Schumi’.
“He is yet to exhaust the potential of his car and will therefore get better from a driving point of view from race to race,” the Red Bull driver told Switzerland’s Motorsport Aktuell.
“I wouldn’t write him off for a long time,” added 22-year-old Vettel.
Force India’s Adrian Sutil also sees nothing odd about Schumacher’s comeback to date.
“I had counted on it being difficult for him. Formula one has changed to the extremes in the past few years so that you can lose half a second and not know exactly why,” he told spox.com.
“Plus it would have been funny if Schumacher had beaten us all after three years of being retired — then he really would have been the god of F1.
“That doesn’t mean he’s doing badly; on the contrary, he’s always in the top ten. He only needs time,” added Sutil.