F1 Opinion: SPEED’s USF1 Explanation, Schumacher Slower Than Rosberg All Weekend


What Happens When the News Flow Slows, a Bit

12:01am EST — With the news slowing as teams return home from Bahrain, do laundry, make updates, and fly back off for Australia, here’s a bit of opinion, previously published by this author at Formula1Blog.

SPEED Coverage from Bahrain Offers an Interesting Explanation for USF1:
Obviously, this weekend’s race coverage had to explain the USF1 situation to the more casual viewers who do not follow Formula1 in the off-season.  Here in the States, we watch F1 on SPEED channel, home to the excellent and entertaining color commentary team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, and Steve Matchett and last season’s grid reporter, Peter Windsor.  Both Windsor’s absence from the SPEED team and USF1’s absence from the grid had to be explained, as his position as one of the team’s owners was touted quite often late last season.  Bob Varsha did the honors, explaining first in the second practice coverage on Friday and again, with nearly the same language, during the half hour pre-race show Sunday morning, along with another mention during qualifying on Saturday, just why USF1 wasn’t on the track in the 2010 season opener.
It is this explanation that has raised eyebrows at OASTD.  It began quite well, explaining that the team had money troubles, couldn’t produce a car in time, and that Windsor had mentioned to his old friends/colleagues on the SPEED team that the FIA had asked that the involved parties not discuss anything about the situation until it was sorted.  Then, Varsha continued (both on Friday and Sunday, and also possibly during qualifying), in a statement that was usually overlaid with footage of the new teams running, suggesting that we, the fans and viewers, should not be too harsh on USF1 since, they and they alone of the new teams, were actually constructors as the spirit of the rules indicated teams should be.
Instead, he indicated during the SPEED broadcasts, these new teams actually racing this weekend were consumer teams who bought their parts and chassis and engines from other sources instead of building them themselves.  The coverage went nearly to the point of denigration of Lotus, Virgin Racing, and HRT, in favor of the mountain USF1 attempted to climb and failed.
The explanation seemed to be a bit much, in the wake of what happened.  I understand that Windsor used to work at SPEED.  I understand that the USF1 and SPEED headquarters were/are practically next door in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I really understand wanting to be certain that the coverage of USF1 was not too harsh.  But, the favor seemed to be returned in harsh coverage on the new teams that actually made the grid, constructor or consumer teams or not.  As a reminder, from it’s inception until this season Toro Rosso was a “consumer” team.
In the end, we won’t know why what was said was said that way.  It could have been the SPEED F1 coverage team’s decision and writing, a producer’s, an intern’s, or word from SPEED on high.  It reminds me of the casual drop-in that Campos (now HRT) would not make Bahrain, either, when the USF1 deferral request was first made known.  An interesting and seemingly odd bit of editorializing.

Schumacher’s Return Highlighted By Slower Pace Than Teammate:
When Michael Schumacher announced his comeback with Mercedes, there was a lot of excitement and speculation that he would either a. be too old or b. tromp all over the comparatively inexperienced youngsters.  Then came testing, where it became apparent that the Merc simply wasn’t fast enough to hunt for the championship straightaway.  People’s excitement was tempered, but there is still a sense that his masterful developmental ability, combined with Ross Brawn at the team’s helm, will soon allow Schumacher to be the force to be reckoned with that he has been.  Then came the first true test: this weekend at Bahrain.  Where he was out-paced and out-qualified in every track session by teammate Nico Rosberg.
It was Rosberg, 8th; Schumacher 10th in practice one on Friday, Rosberg fastest; Schumacher 3rd in practice two on Friday, Rosberg starting fifth; Schumacher 7th after qualifying, and Rosberg finishing 5th; Schumacher finishing 6th in the race today.  So, with an entire race weekend the only available racing data, we can completely say that (note some amount of sarcasm here) young Rosberg has out-performed his more illustrious colleague in the same equipment in every bit of proper track running all season.
There are myriad reasons why, from something as simple as Schumacher not liking Bahrain, being a teeny bit out of practice, or that ever-elusive and varying quality called luck.  Obviously, we will have to wait all season, and the next three years for the rest of his contract, to learn if Michael Schumacher is truly back in all of the powerful racing glory he once demonstrated.  However, it is clear that the previously expected (in some quarters) domination of the field is belied by his early pace behind younger and more in-practice teammate Rosberg.

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