Schumacher has put out a carefully worded message over Christmas to the Ferrari fans, the tifosi, clearly concerned that they should not regard him as a traitor for leaving Ferrari to race for Mercedes, alongside the engineer who led Ferrari to greatness in the early 2000s.
The pressure is now significantly increased on Ferrari, partly because F1 now has a new powerhouse team, backed by a manufacturer, but also because if Ferrari cannot match them on the track, critics will inevitably say that it was Brawn and Schumacher who made the Scuderia great and that the team has been in decline since they -and Jean Todt – left and the Italians took the team over again. This season was a disappointing one for the team and the technical department led by Aldo Costa needs to deliver a special car. The arrival of Fernando Alonso is a vital part of the plan to get Ferrari on top again, now the engineers need to deliver.
The re-forged alliance of Schumacher and Brawn is thus a major threat to the new regime at Ferrari both in sporting and in image terms. And let’s not forget that off the back of this programme Mercedes is launching a road car into the Ferrari market place. The stakes are high, but this is Formula 1 and it is what makes it so interesting.
“For 14 years I was a part of Ferrari and for 14 years Ferrari was a part of me,” said Schumacher’s statement. “A sizeable chunk of Ferrari will always stay in my heart. I will always think of the warmth, the strength and the dedication I received for so many years from Italian Ferrari fans.
“I have felt welcomed by you, and I have tried to give you joy and passion when I fought on the tracks and rejoiced with you after victories.
“I have found many friends and learned a lot in the years I spent at Ferrari. I carefully observed the way to face things and have often underlined this attitude in Germany: no moaning but rather trying to see the beauty and the goodness in what’s unavoidable, and rejoicing.
“Now a new chapter begins for me. I will race on the track against Ferrari with the utmost respect. I’m convinced these will be hard battles. Indeed, I’m certain Ferrari will be able to show its historical strength because I know what these guys are able to do.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has supported me. I’d be happy if, besides the two Ferrari drivers, you’d carry on giving me a bit of your unlimited liking.”
Since retirement Schumacher has acted as a consultant to Ferrari and had agreed a new three year deal with the team over the summer, when it seemed that he might stand in for the injured Felipe Massa.
Although the comeback didn’t happen that time, Schumacher was very motivated to race again. Perhaps for that reason, the Ferrari contract was never signed and when Ross Brawn got in touch with Schumacher he was ready to listen. Ferrari tried to work something out with a third car at certain events, but it wasn’t really on the cards. Schumacher is not a long term answer for Mercedes, all sides know that, but for a year or two or three it will provide a fantastic foundation for this new team.
According to Auto Motor und Sport, he has further tests on his neck scheduled for January, but should the doctors come back and say that there is still a risk to his neck, in the event that Schumacher suffered another accident, he will be told to race at his own risk. He has enough wealth not to need to worry about needing to make insurance claims, AMS concludes.