FORMULA ONE chief Bernie Ecclestone is backing seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher to rediscover his winning touch despite his slow start to the season.
Schumacher, 41, got back behind the wheel after three-and-a-half years in retirement this season, but has so far played second fiddle to Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.
The German finished a gallant sixth in the opening race of the season in Bahrain but has failed to emulate that since, sandwiching two 10th place finishes in Australia and China with an early retirement in Malyasia.
In contrast, his younger compatriot Rosberg has finished on the podium in each of the last two races and currently sits second in the drivers’ championship behind leader Jenson Button. But despite his slow progress, Ecclestone believes the most successful driver in the sport’s history will rediscover his greatness.
“Anybody who criticises Michael is wrong. He deserves better,” Ecclestone said. “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.”
Despite his slow start, Mercedes boss Norbert Haug insists the sheer presence of the veteran is having a positive effect on the team.
“This enthusiasm is firing up the whole team,” he added. “Within the team, Michael is extremely constructive.”