Michael Schumacher is a five times Monaco GP winner, but he arrives in the Principality this weekend with a cloud over his head after his third retirement in five races this season.
It leaves him with just two points, his worst ever start to an F1 season. In each of those three retirements he has lasted no more than 12 laps.
Schumacher’s frustration is evident; he has fired several salvoes against Pirelli and called Bruno Senna an “idiot” for the collision in Spain which eliminated both cars. The stewards in Barcelona agreed with many commentators in calling it 100% Schumacher’s fault and handing him a five place grid penalty for this weekend’s Monaco GP. With overtaking so hard in Monaco (there were only 11 overtakes last season, the lowest of any race) it will be another frustrating weekend for the German.
And it seems that the question of what happens next is beginning to arise. It brings Schumacher to a crossroads in his second career: to continue or to call it a day at the end of the season?
Lewis Hamilton is potentially available for next season and this week Mercedes CEO Nick Fry made some comments about Paul di Resta, which caught the attention, “Paul’s on our radar,” he said. “He has done a fantastic job, he’s a nice guy, he’s a great team player and he would be one of the drivers undoubtedly that, if Michael were to decide he didn’t want to continue, we would look at. We haven’t reached that time in our thinking yet, but we have all got a lot of admiration for Paul.”
Ross Brawn missed the Spanish Grand Prix with illness, but will be back in Monaco to oversee the team. He has stepped in and counterbalanced the talk of life beyond Schumacher. He told Bild in Germany that the team has let Schumacher down, rather than the other way around.
“A lot has been said and written, but we should not forget that we – the team – have let him down in three of the fives races, not delivering the job we should have,” he said. “We must do better. We saw Michael’s real quality again in the first race, so it’s for that reason that I believe we will see him on the podium this year.
“When the time comes, we will sit down together and talk about the future. I’m sure it will become clear very quickly in what direction we will go.”
Speaking in the Monaco paddock on Wednesday Schumacher said, “So far we’re not focusing on what happens next year or in the future. It’s more about what happens right now and the team and myself will get together, so there’s no news for you yet, unfortunately.”
Mercedes is itself at a crossroads in its F1 involvement, having been snubbed by the commercial rights holders when favourable deals for the next eight seasons were being offered around to lock in the top teams. The message appears to be that F1 does not consider Mercedes a ‘must have’, despite the fact that the sport is heading for an IPO this summer. Mercedes supplies engines to 25% of the grid.
This is the main issue to resolve, before the issue of Schumacher’s future can be dealt with.