Sat, May 12, 2012 - Page 19 News List

F1: Schumacher eyes his return to F1 podium in Spain

AP, BARCELONA, SPAIN

Seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher is hopeful the Spanish Grand Prix might yield the first podium finish since his comeback, while rival Kimi Raikkonen is similarly optimistic about a first victory since his return. Schumacher, in his third season since coming out of retirement, has a pair of 10th-place finishes to go with two DNFs this season, while Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg won in China.

The German driver has yet to grace the podium since his return, but Schumacher expects a turnaround soon, hopefully at the Catalunya Circuit — where he has won seven times before.

“The reality is that we have a car that can be on the podium and can win races,” said Schumacher, who was buoyed by the team’s performance in a midseason test session in Italy last week. After four races, two-time defending F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, who won here last season, has 53 points to Schumacher’s two.

Raikkonen, the 2007 champion, is a two-time winner here and coming off a surprising second-place finish in Bahrain. The 10 previous winners here all started from pole position, but changes to regulations to improve overtaking mean today’s qualifying will not be as crucial as in the past.

“You don’t have to be on pole now to win. The teams are very close. So if everything goes smoothly then we can be up there,” Raikkonen said. “But small difficulties in some areas and you’re suddenly much further back. We try to do everything right and then see what happens.”

Raikkonen’s Lotus team skipped the Mugello test session, but will bring new parts to Spain like the rest of the cars on the grid.

McLaren is expected to run a higher nose on its car as it vies to boost Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button’s chances after a dip in the Middle East. Hamilton, who trails Vettel by four points, was eighth and Button was 18th to drop 10 points behind Vettel.

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