Michael Schumacher said yesterday that he would understand why Sebastian Vettel might want to move to Ferrari to compete with Fernando Alonso at some point in the next few years, as has been mooted recently.
In an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport at the launch of a new watch he has developed with Swiss luxury brand Audemars Piguet, Schumacher said that at a certain point in the career of all drivers there comes a need to challenge yourself anew.
Asked whether he sees Vettel moving to Ferrari alongside Alonso he replied, “There’s a lot of talk about it. I think that everyone, as I experienced myself at a certain point, feels the need for a fresh challenge; he too will have that, if he takes a decision in that sense.”
Schumacher said that he would definitely stop racing after the Brazilian Grand Prix and had no intention of driving any other type of racing car in competition again, “I’m stopping here for good,” he said, adding that he had no regrets over his the second career in F1 from 2010 to today, which has been useful because it taught him ‘how to lose’
“If I look in the rear view mirror of my life, I see myself happy and smiling,” he said. “I’ve had two distinct careers; one where I won everything and the second in which I learned what it means to lose. Yes I’ve learned how to lose. But this has made me more mature and also more patient, my age is part of that. Now I can look back globally on what I have done and I’m satisfied.
“I have no regrets, just joy for what I’ve achieved. And now life, from here onwards, will offer me plenty of new opportunities. I can’t wait.”
This is the closest Schumacher will come to admitting that in his first career he did things which crossed the line of acceptability because he couldn’t stand the idea of losing and makes clear that he accepts it and has come to terms with it; the three most notorious being the collisions with Damon Hill at the final round in 1994 and with Jacques Villeneuve at the final round of 1997, as well as Rascasse-gate in 2006, where he parked the car in qualifying at Monaco in order to stop rivals beating him to pole position.
These things will always be on his record; he is the only driver to have been disqualified from FIA championship records, for example, for what happened at Jerez in 1997. But his record of seven world titles and 91 wins is there for all time. Perhaps only now is he able to realise what that all means.
It stands in stark contrast to that other seven times champion, Lance Armstrong, who is seeing all his achievements and his entire sporting persona pulled down because of his systematic use of doping in cycling. Schumacher may have committed the odd professional foul along the way, but he is still the colossus of our sport.
Schumacher rules out running his own F1 team and says, rather unconvincingly, that he’s going to dedicate his competitive urge to horses and Western-style competitions with his wife Corinna.
Time will tell whether this is enough for Schumacher, who has always been very adept at using his personal brand. It’s hard to see him letting that slip away in retirement.