Near the end of his second season since returning to Formula One, Michael Schumacher is finally topping the charts once again.

Germany's Sport1 reports that the seven time world champion ranks first on the list of drivers when it comes to performance on the opening lap of Grands Prix this year.

The report said the 42-year-old German has recorded no fewer than 42 overtaking moves on lap 1 so far in 2011, which is more than ten passes ahead of F1's second-best, Sebastien Buemi.

Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team
Michael Schumacher, Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

Third is the exciting Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi, with 23 first-lap moves.

"Schumacher is getting better," said Niki Lauda, "but no one is interested because he doesn't have a competitive car.

"I hope that is different next year. Then we can watch it again from scratch."

It should be noted, of course, that drivers who qualify exceptionally well are unlikely to feature highly in the first-lap overtaking ranking, like Sebastian Vettel.

The back to back world champion has started from pole an astonishing 13 times out of the 17 races so far, meaning he has only passed two drivers on the first lap all season.

Schumacher's teammate Nico Rosberg insists he has been the better driver in 2011.

"If you look at who has got the most points, that's me, and if you look at who is most often ahead in the race, that's me as well," said the German.

"It is not true that he (Schumacher) is faster in the race. For sure he is closer in the race than he is in qualifying, but it is not true that he is faster," Rosberg insisted.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes GP Petronas F1 Team

Photo by: xpb.cc

The Rosberg-Schumacher tussle aside, veteran engineer Joan Villadelprat insists the bigger picture is much more crucial at Mercedes.

"There are many people who analyse that Ferrari's performance has been unacceptable for a team of its calibre," he wrote in the El Pais newspaper.

"From my point of view there is a more pressing case -- Mercedes.

"2012 will be their third season, they have invested a fortune and the officials are not going to keep injecting millions if the effort does not translate.

"A premium brand such as theirs can only be in the fight for victory, which at the moment is an unrealistic goal. Mercedes cannot afford to be associated with the grid's middle class," added Villadelprat.