Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has come out in defence of under-fire Michael Schumacher following his woeful return to the sport.
After more than three years in retirement, Schumacher has been a shadow of his former self in the four races so far on his comeback with Mercedes GP.
In particular, the seven-time champion has been out-qualified by team-mate Nico Rosberg in Bahrain, Australia, Malaysia and China, and finished behind his fellow German in all the races.
Only one other driver has a 4-0 scoreline against him in comparison to his
team-mate – Renault’s Russian rookie Vitaly Petrov suffering in comparison to Robert Kubica.
Schumacher’s performance in Shanghai was particularly lamentable,
resulting in a barrage of criticism and questions being raised as to why he returned.
But speaking to www.formula1.com, Ecclestone said: “Anybody who criticises Michael is wrong. He deserves better.
“I would say don’t underestimate Michael. Give him time to adapt to the new car and the new tyres.
“At the moment he’s something of a newbie who has to get accustomed to the trade again.
“Michael would have never returned had he not been convinced that he can do the job.
“He is not a tourist in the paddock, he’s here to win. And he will win again.”
Schumacher has amassed just 10 points in comparison to Rosberg’s 50, with a best finish of sixth in the season opener in Bahrain.
However, Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug has joined forces with Ecclestone by supporting Schumacher.
“We all know Michael would be his first and foremost critic if he realised this job is not for him any more, but that’s not the case,” Haug said.
“At the moment he’s realising how much he has missed all that. If you are a rock ‘n’ roll star you want to be on stage and not contemplating life from your sofa.
“This enthusiasm is firing up the whole team. Within the team, Michael is extremely constructive.”
Schumacher’s brother Ralf has also told the snipers to “lay off a bit with your criticism and stay fair.”
The younger Schumacher, who competed in F1 for 11 seasons prior to bowing out in 2007 and eventually moving to German touring cars, has been dismayed by the level of criticism.
Speaking to German newspaper Bild, Ralf said: “He himself knew that, after a three-year break, he could not go in and win again straightaway like before.
“But the expectations from outside were, of course, very big.
“Clearly Michael probably hoped to be somewhat nearer the front after four races.
“But he twice had bad luck with a collision in Melbourne which he could do nothing about, and then he had a defect (wheel nut failure) in Malaysia.
“With regard to the times he is not so far away as the points make it seem. I believe a good result is soon possible.”