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JULY 25, 2010

Why Mercedes and Schumacher are struggling at home

Michael Schumacher suffered the ignominy of failing to make Q3 in front of his home fans at Hockenheim, losing out by eight thousandths of a second to team mate Nico Rosberg and finally bumped out of the qualifying shoot-out by rookie young German Nico Hulkenberg's Williams-Cosworth.

After a podium finish from Rosberg at Silverstone, Mercedes came to Hockenheim with a revised floor and a new rear wing and hoping for more progress. But it was not to be.

"Today was a disappointment because of the hope and expectation of a new aero package," Ross Brawn admitted after qualifying. "The potential of both is good but we weren't able to use it and had some problems with the consistency of downforce. When you are operating in the area of blown exhaust gas it's quite a complex area both to model and replicate in the wind tunnel and we've had some quite big inconsistencies in the performance this weekend. We need to sort out the ride heights and the other chassis settings we need to run to get the most from the ideas.

"With the patchy weather this weekend we just haven't got it right and ended up with quite a bad balance in qualifying and an inconsistent car. It's such a different package from what we had at Silverstone that we just need some time to optimise it."

Brawn admitted that, like McLaren at Silverstone, Mercedes considered going back to the old specification after the first day of practice but decided against it.

"It was a serious consideration," he said, "but in fairness I don't know what problems McLaren had specifically and of course they are fighting for a world championship, so couldn't afford to drop races. We preferred to persevere and learn more about the system and how to use it. There's a limit to what we can do for the race because of parc ferme but we'll certainly know more after the race. We want to persevere with the system and see if we can understand more before Hungary."

Rosberg explained that the team had made big changes to his car between free practice and qualifying.

"The car was very different from session to session and going into qualifying the balance changed a lot and I had a lot less grip on the rear. I dropped the front wing by an unusually large amount and it didn't change anything and I had a lot of oversteer, lack of slow speed entry grip, poor traction and that's where I struggled. There's no real explanation at the moment."

Schumacher, meanwhile, seemed frustrated by the current demands of the F1 regulations which effectively dictate the necessity to test at a race meeting.

"If you look at F1 the way it is now," he said, "you have no testing and you see in particular this year several teams with different aerodynamic features and naturally you understand that you don't have them so you want to implement them. You develop them at home with no testing, you build them onto your car, whether it's an F-duct or other specific items like exhausts, and you do it on a race weekend. There are lots of implications with all these new ideas on the car so you go into a race weekend without experience and have very little time and you end up in compromises.

"I think honestly, if you imagine the level of sport we celebrate here, the input of the financial people and then you consider it is the only sport in the world that has no testing, I think it's quite ridiculous. I understand why we have ended up where we are now as it was ridiculous to do 90,000kms or more of testing during the year, but equally it is completely ridiculous to do zero testing."