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Monday 18 December 2017

Schuey putting brakes on hype

Legend insists it'll take time to hit former heights

Everybody has an opinion on Michael Schumacher, even the great man himself, as he warned Formula One yesterday: "I am no magician."

So in two grands prix of this new season, he has rejected claims of his Superman status and that he might have magical powers that helped him through his extraordinary Formula One career -- at least first time round.

But the myth so often clouds the facts when it comes to the controversial German and even his team-mate has been forced into a vow of silence as a result. Nico Rosberg must have wondered what kind of devil-man he had been partnered with when he arrived at the new Mercedes team because Schumacher comes with more baggage than a carrousel at Heathrow.

Rosberg feared the worst but discovered a rather nice individual -- even when he was beating the legend all ends up at the first race of the year, in Bahrain. "It's very relaxed," the 24-year-old said. "Being in front of him all weekend in Bahrain didn't change anything. I had heard so many bad things about being his team-mate and, to be very honest, it has been really good.

"He has been very open, very friendly, no thoughts from him about how he could destroy his team-mate. It's been a good experience up to now."

The usually straight-talking Rosberg is taking no chances, as he admitted when asked if he was biting his tongue these days.

"I have to be so careful what I say," he said. "Unfortunately, I am not able to say what I think any more. I can't afford bad headlines against one of the best of all time who has a huge following. If I said what I thought, people would twist it, so I just need to be very careful."

Schumacher is happy to let the world make judgments about his decision to return to the track at the age of 41 after three years in retirement. His debut in Bahrain two weeks ago was underwhelming, if wholly creditable, given the short time that he had to prepare.

He, at least, claims to be happy and there was an air of calm yesterday as he strode around the Albert Park paddock here, his smooth face and trim physique looking nowhere near his advancing years. When it was pointed out that being beaten by a team-mate was a novelty in his career, Schumacher shot back: "That is true, but it is rare that I take a three-year break.

"Bahrain was in line with my expectations. I wasn't dreaming of coming back and kicking everyone else's a*** and neither was I kicked. You can't expect me to be on it straight away."

Schumacher refuses to be rushed. "I think it is fair enough to be judged on results," he said. "But I don't feel I need to give guidelines or references on when I will achieve them."

If there is anywhere Schumacher could make his breakthrough to add to those 91 victories he racked up on the way to seven world drivers' titles, it is at Albert Park in Melbourne. A street track with its own quirks, add a sprinkle of rain, and Schumacher could take an opportunity to break through the ranks of youngsters who hold sway. "Australia has its own rules," Schumacher said. "For better or worse, we will find out."

But if we take what Schumacher says at face value, he is just along for the ride, taking each day as it comes and jollying along his new team-mate.

At least for now. Surely it cannot be long before the man even Rosberg was happy to admit was among the greatest Formula One drivers will get back on the winning track.

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