Budapest: Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn has defended under-fire Michael Schumacher, insisting the German did not deliberately make a dangerous move against Rubens Barrichello at the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Brawn, boss of both men during a six-year spell of unprecedented success at Ferrari, spoke out in the aftermath of Brazilian Barrichello’s claims Sunday that he was “lucky to be alive”.
In the final laps of Sunday’s race, seven-times world champion Schumacher fought to defend 10th position and almost pushed Williams driver Barrichello into the pit wall when he swerved towards him.
Brawn said he was certain that Schumacher moved only to defend his position and did so without any dangerous intent towards his rival.
“It may have ended up looking in a dangerous way, but that wasn’t the intent I am sure by Michael,” he said.
“Michael was defending his position, trying to encourage Rubens to go around the outside. I don’t think for a moment that he saw Rubens there and thought ‘I will squeeze him’.
“But it is a pretty tough business F1 and if you open up every time someone tries to attack you, then you know the drivers in F1 who don’t defend and those that do..”
Schumacher, 41, was given a 10-place grid penalty for the Belgian Grand Prix later this month and the incident sparked widespread condemnation of his career-long habit of similar controversial incidents.
But Brawn put the latest in Schumacher’s list of such clashes into perspective, saying: “Yes, pretty tough - a tough move by Michael and a tough decision by the stewards.
“I don’t think for a moment that Michael was trying to put Rubens in the wall, but he was trying to discourage him from coming down the inside because he thought that was where he would be vulnerable.
“But at the end of the day he gave him enough space. You can argue that it was marginal, but it was just tough - tough racing.”
Brawn said he felt Schumacher was caught out by Barrichello driving alongside him so soon after the exit of the final corner.
“Later in the manoeuvre, you can see he moved away from Rubens,” Brawn told reporters on Monday.
“I don’t think he expected Rubens to be exactly where he was at that time because it is a sort of manoeuvre that happens when you enter a corner - not that far up a straight.
“Rubens got a very good run out of the last corner with his new tyres, so I think there are lots of ways of arguing it - but these things happen in a fraction of a second.”
Brawn also played down suggestions in the media that Schumacher was more brutal towards Barrichello because he was a former team-mate with whom his relationship had soured in the last few years.
“No, certainly not from Michael’s perspective,” said Brawn. “Michael didn’t comment on that. I know Rubens has commented on the history between them, but Michael hasn’t at all.
“It is obviously something that is paramount in Rubens’ mind...”
The incident clearly infuriated and frightened Barrichello who, after six years as number two driver to Schumacher, left Ferrari because he was tired of being forced to obey team orders that favoured the German.
After the incident, the Brazilian said: “I am lucky to be here. Thank God the wall ended when it did because there was only a hair’s breadth between my wheels and the wall.”
When asked if he intended to talk to his former team-mate, Barrichello replied: “You know Michael. You talk to him and he will always feel that he is right.
“He has been out of the sport for three years and he is still the same guy.”