Michael Bailey: Michael Schumacher has plenty to ponder

It seemed to be a tale of two Germans around Istanbul Park at the weekend – especially come race day.

On the one hand there was the supremely unflappable Sebastian Vettel – a defending champion with the world at his feet. And in Turkey, the 23-year-old was at his domineering best.

No one had an answer to the Heppenheim man's speed, nor his Red Bull's intimidating performance.

The word comfortable was etched all over Vettel's face as he took pole position with the quickest lap recorded around Hermann Tilke's impressive circuit.

He could even afford to get out of his car with minutes of Saturday's third qualifying session remaining – before hanging around to see whether he would keep hold of top spot on the grid, without any obvious sign he ever expected to lose it.


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He then continued in a similar vein the following day, slickly getting away from the front and keeping the field at arm's length, ticking off the pit stops – and there were a few – before taking the chequered flag: win number 13 from only 66 races.

Now, I am not the greatest fan of Vettel. Nothing personal, just a belief there are better drivers on the grid than the 2010 world champion. Maybe the day Vettel qualifies 10th but still cuts his way through the field will see that change.

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But clearly in a car with pace, the German has the speed, discipline and temperament to relentlessly deliver consistent results.

It is reminiscent of the last German driver to produce such ominous form – Michael Schumacher.

When Vettel was chatting through his qualifying performance in the paddock on Saturday, the cameras caught him sharing a polite exchange with his fellow countryman and the seven-times world champion. But that was about as similar as their Turkish Grand Prix got.

In final free practice Schumacher was second quickest – but hopes of finally seeing a first glimpse of class from the legendary figure that returned to the grid last season were dashed with qualifying.

From then on, not even the introduction of a 'magic paddle' could stop Schumacher cutting a sad figure. Too often so many steps behind he would either damage his own race – like losing his front wing after clashing with Vitaly Petrov – or get taken to the cleaners in moves from the likes of Adrian Sutil.

Schumacher finished 12th, more than half a minute behind his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg.

'The big joy is not there right now,' Schumacher to the BBC after the race.

It may be the sport's most successful driver will follow that big joy out of the door just as quickly.

• You could smell the nostalgia at Snetterton last week as Classic Team Lotus put on a real show of black and gold.

Clive Chapman's heritage outfit put three John Player Special Team Lotus type-79s through their paces around Snetterton's revamped circuit – the first time a T79 trio had been together on track, and 33 years after it won the 1978 F1 world championship.

Ex-Lotus works driver Doc Bundy, above, got behind one of Mario Andretti's practice chassis, a car that picked up four one-two finishes with Andretti and Ronnie Peterson at the wheel.

Considering the recent bitterness over the Lotus marque, it is good to be reminded of its grand history.

• Once again we had a storming race in Istanbul – and although we were spared an incident on the scale of Mark Webber and Vettel's collision in 2010, the grand prix still did more than enough to justify exactly why the drivers, teams and – maybe most importantly – F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, love being in Turkey.

All of which begs the question: Why could it be the last Turkish Grand Prix for the foreseeable future?

The answer, of course, lays in the grandstands.

While China brought in a ticketing policy this year that finally got people through the doors, the sight of fans at Istanbul taking to the raised banks – while entire blocks of seats stood empty – said it all.

In many ways Bernie's statement the race needs better marketing misses the point. It does not matter how well you sell a race if people cannot or do not want to shell out for the privilege.

It gets tricky from here for Istanbul. Planned races in Russia and the US mean existing tracks will have to be sacrificed.

But one thing has at least been established – people in Turkey do want F1 racing, and F1 could do with Istanbul Park.

• Four races into the 2011 season and we are starting to see exactly how the winter rule changes have shifted the teams' strategies.

With tyre wear so high, it seems every run in qualifying has to be justified. The fewer you do, the better off in the race you will be – no matter what your starting position on the grid is.

So getting the hang of bagging your best time in just one lap rather than three now seems key, while the whole art of qualifying is clearly carrying less weight than the race – a bit of a turnaround on last season.

As for the moveable rear wing, or Drag Reduction System – DRS to you and me – Turkey finally brought a race where the overtaking device seemed to make passing just a little too easy.

That said, the only side effect it left was even more passing elsewhere on the track.

And if that is the worst problem the FIA has to deal with, I think we should all declare this season's innovations a roaring success.

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