Seven time Formula 1 World Champion Michael Schumacher returned from his retirement from active racing, at the end of the 2006 season, to drive for long-time friend and associate Ross Brawn and the Mercedes team, at the start of the 2010 season. The German has consistently been hailed as one of the greatest drivers of all time, even if he did display questionable ethics at certain times. His return, therefore, was keenly anticipated.
Unfortunately for all concerned, while his second coming has been by no means poor, it has failed to live up to expectations. Schumacher finished the 2010 season in ninth place, with 72 points; most importantly, it was the first time since his debut in 1991 that he finished without a race win, pole position, podium or even fastest lap to his name for the season. The next season was not much better - he finished eight with 76 points. In each of the last two seasons, moreover, Schumacher has been outscored by team mate Nico Rosberg, who led the team to their first race win since the 2009 season, when he took the chequered flag at China.
This season, Schumacher has only two points from the opening five races, compared to Rosberg's 41, leading to speculation the elder German's racing career could be well and truly over and the team may be forced to replace him midseason.
However, Schumacher himself has no such thoughts and has been quoted in a Daily Mail report as saying he was confident of putting the season's disappointments behind him and delivering a good performance at Monaco. Incidentally, he will also have to deal with a five-place grid penalty, for causing a collision with Bruno Senna of Williams, in the last race.
"Every time you go there (to Monaco) you just look forward to finally getting out and driving the track. Of course, knowing I will lose five positions on the grid does not add to this feeling, but this just means I will have to try even harder. I'm actually quite confident we should look reasonably good in Monaco due to the hard work everybody in the team is putting into the development of our car. So let's make the best out of the weekend," the multiple World Champion and record-holder said.
Nevertheless, the pressure on Schumacher (and former team mate Felipe Massa at Ferrari) continues to grow, with a later Daily Mail report suggesting the team was lining up Force India's Paul di Resta as a potential replacement.
"Of course Paul's on our radar. He's done a fantastic job, he's a nice guy, he's great team player and he would be one of the drivers undoubtedly that, if Michael were to decide he didn't want to continue, we would look at. But we haven't reached that time yet in our thinking but we have all got a lot of admiration for Paul," Mercedes' Chief Executive, Nick Fry, said.
The Force India man has driven for Mercedes before, although not in Formula One - he won the F3 Euro Series title with the German manufacturers in 2006 and the German Touring Car Championship in 2010.