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Schumacher and Mercedes: is it serious?
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Schumacher and Mercedes: is it serious?
Posted By: James Allen  |  20 Nov 2009   |  6:06 pm GMT  |  205 comments

Today has seen a groundswell of stories about Michael Schumacher talking to Mercedes about making a return to F1 next season. I’ve had dozens of readers asking whether this is the case or not, meanwhile Eddie Jordan has stuck his neck out and said on the BBC website that the deal is on and Schumacher will be racing in silver next season.

The Telegraph’s Kevin Garside, who no longer covers F1 on a regular basis, has gone overboard on the story today too, albeit with no quotes or attributions. The authoritative end of the German media is strangely silent on the matter.

Schumacher: "Never say never" (Darren Heath)
The rumours are being fanned by Norbert Haug’s suggestion that the Mercedes driver line up would feature some “surprises”.

So is it serious?

Let’s take a step back and assess this situation. Schumacher was very eager to make a comeback this summer when Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo asked him to stand in for the injured Felipe Massa. Schumacher recently admitted that his decision to go for it was emotionally driven, rather than rationally driven and he regretted letting it become public before he had been able to assess whether his injured neck would take it.

The neck will supposedly be fine by the end of the year so physically he should be cleared by doctors to race, if he wants to.

Schumacher’s spokeswoman, Sabine Kehm says that she does not think he is in discussions with Mercedes nor that he will come back full time next season, but then she added the caveat that with Schumacher, you can never say never. His decision to go for it last summer was as big a shock to her as it was to the rest of us.

But the 40 year old said that what attracted him was the idea of doing just a few races, to get the buzz again. He was not keen on doing a whole season. In a recent interview for a Shell PR handout, Schumacher said that he did not want to be seen as a “Grandad” in Formula 1.

“There’s lots of talk about me returning to Formula One, ” he said. “I was very close obviously this year to replacing Felipe, but whether I’m going to race in the future or not, we will see. I guess my neck by the end of the year or beginning of next year will be fully fine, but I will be 41 – and that would make me the grandad of F1! I’m not sure I want that.”

But once again this is a moment of need, this time for his old friend and colleague, Ross Brawn. Brawn however said yesterday to Gazzetta dello Sport that Schumacher and he working together next year was not a likelihood.

This week has been a tough one for the new Brawn/Mercedes alliance. McLaren has hijacked the PR agenda with a bold swoop for World Champion Jenson Button. Mercedes needed a quick win in return and these rumours about Schumacher give them that instant boost, whether they are true or not. The attention is back on Mercedes.

Schumacher still has a profile to maintain for the benefit of his many sponsors and all this attention is a win for both him and Mercedes, regardless of whether anything comes of it. Would it be good for F1? Undoubtedly. Does F1 need it? More debatable now that we have some really strong storylines, like Hamilton vs Button, Hamilton vs Alonso in rival cars and the continuing rise of Vettel. It’s not as if Bernie Ecclestone needs a new trick to get interest in the sport going.

I’ve said all along Mercedes long-term target has to be to get Sebastian Vettel once his Red Bull contract expires at the end of 2011 and they need a stop-gap until then. Lewis Hamilton must also be a target. Button didn’t fancy being that stop-gap and has bought the McLaren dream of the “British Ferrari”, which Ron Dennis is peddling to him.

The reality of Schumacher and Brawn reprising their all conquering partnership at Mercedes would have been easy to imagine a few years ago, but now it is hard to see what is to be gained from it. I can see Mercedes wanting to have Schumacher on board as a consultant, as he is to Ferrari. He never raced for them in F1, but he raced for them in sportscars in 1990 and 1991. He and Mercedes are one of those relationships doomed never to happen in F1 terms.

Driving in F1 today is nothing like as time consuming as it was in the days of endless testing. Over the summer, Schumacher was very excited by the idea of racing again.

Will it happen? I would be very surprised, but as he says, “never say never.”

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1

All this press is great for Mercedes. However, if they don’t land Kimi or Schumi it will be a huge let down. I almost feel bad for Heidfeld who knows if his name is called you will hear a pin drop.

2

Of course Kimi will take the Mercedes spot…

3

No. But its good PR until they announce Kimi. 73% of the German Auto Motor Sport readers want Kimi in the other Mercedes car.

4

Kimi is definitely the logical choice, but it’s a question of whether Kimi actually wants Mercedes and wants to be in another corporate environment. He’ll have less politics than he did at Ferrari though. He is adamant that going rallying and doing other forms of racing during the year, especially with no testing, keeps him sharp. A one year deal might be palatable both to him and Mercedes – especially if they want to try and prise Vettel away and maybe do a swap. 😉

Strangely, I don’t think money is an obstacle to such a deal.

5
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, any more new on MS?

Haug just repeated his soundbite on a “suprise driver line’up” . Wili Weber has confirmed that MS talked to Mercedes after Abu Dhabi.

6

Haug just means it will be a surprise to *him, because nobody’s telling him anything!

7

Very witty!

8

That doesn’t tell us anything new. EJ said he saw Schumacher, Brawn and the guy from Mercedes deep in conversation at Abu Dhabi an that’s what he has based his prediction on. However, a lot has happened since that race and it’s been clear that Brawn were counting on Jenson waiting until the Mercedes deal went though.

9

No it won’t happen, and it would be stupid for it to happen.

Given that Schumacher has had such a huge commitment to Ferrari this extends beyond any contract, and for him to turn up for Mercedes now to relive the glory days he never had with them just looks daft.

Additionally, I don’t think Schumacher’s wife will be impressed. Given that he’s now in his forties, and I don’t doubt he could still do it, but in two or three years he’d have to go over retirement all over again.

He’s said many times before that his time has passed, and Schumacher is such a mentally tough person that once he makes a decision he doesn’t go back on it.

10

Oh, that AGE THING AGAIN.

Let me tell you, I’m in my 40s and I would be competitive in an F1 car… I am sure I would be… if only someone would give me a chance… please…

11

You don’t have what Michael Schumacher has behind him and you would both have to face a decision over retirement in two or three years, maximum.

12

Ummm… I was being funny… dolt!

13

First time I have seen this site James! Well done and thanks for your knowlege on this issue!

14

Ross Brawn is in no hurry to sign the second driver. He can easily do that in 2010 before the season starts.

Kimi Raikkonen would consider a return to the cockpit if the car is capable of winning races and the championship.

The only way for him to find out is, driving the Mercedes car. And testing starts somewhere in 2010, yes?

So don’t be surprised when he should step into the cockpit and test the car. This reminds me of late 1992. With the prospect of Alain Prost winning the 93 championship with two fingers up his nose, Ayrton had no desire to drive a Mclaren with no Honda power. So he looked for other options. Testing the Penske Indycar car in the USA sparked rumours that he would go to the American counterpart of F1.

He did test for Mclaren MP4/8 Ford Cosworth V8 in 1993 and found the car competitive enough to race the new season.

So, if Brawn won’t announce a deal with a driver who will partner Rosberg, than that is my thought that this Raikkonen test might happen. We just have to wait and see. They are in no hurry and don’t need to. It’s better to wait and make the right decision than to speed things up and make the wrong decision.

About Schumacher? No way that his return will happen. It’s good PR to have those rumours and it helps Mercedes in the spotlight as all attention is gone to them now after the Button-Mclaren announcement.

15

James help me alleviate the boredom of the wife watching strictly on sky plus – what is the purpose of the delay announcing rosberg as mercedes driver please?

16

nothing is imposible we wait and see if Schumacher will be faster than lewis, alonso and vettel.

james do you think HAMILTON will be lead driver with number 2 status on his car. i don’t know how it gonna work out. but button complains a lot.

17

If he must race do Le Mans or Indy. Or NASCAR! Imagine if Michael won Le Mans, or an Indy Championship or finished his first year in NASCAR in the top 10. Now that’s a LEGEND.

18

Nigel Mansell. Been there, done that! =D

19

Yup! Legend!

20

I was a big Schumacher fan but would not love to see him coming back to F1. He is not the same man that left so see no reason for him to come back. I doubt he is thinking of coming back either.

Why did Sabine have to say the words “never say never”? she knows for sure Michael isn’t coming back I don’t see why she had to get the media started again.

21
Racing not Politics

Like you James, I really doubt MS will drive in F1 again but I certainly would like to see it

22

Nick Heidfeld will race alongside Nico Rosberg in 2010.

23

I am not going to get carried away about this. I don’t want to be disappointed again like last Summer.

But if it were to be true … man, that’d be awesome 🙂

okay, stop it!

24
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

Hi James, just read the excerpt from your book on the ITV-F1 website. It was very amusing to read about Ross Brawn traveling with the team on easyJet!!

Just ordered your book. I hope that my mail forwarded in London manages to get it to reach me in Colombia before Christmas!

25
Paige Michael-Shetley

I’ve thought more about this, and I think it’s a really bad idea for Schumacher to come back.

It’s one thing to sit out for a year and then step in the very best car by a significant the next season while having plenty of opportunity to test, as Prost did in 1993 with Williams and the FW15. Schumacher has now been away for three seasons, and he won’t get to test over the offseason until about a month before the year starts; realistically, he’s probably not going to be very competitive. And while the Merc should be very good next season, I think it would be naive to say it will be as dominant as the FW14/FW15, which would make things much harder for Schumacher.

The absolutely best option for Mercedes right now is to do everything they can to sign Raikkonen for a couple of years. He provides the team with one of the elite talents of F1 who would be motivated by the opportunity to drive a top car and compete for the championship. He’s shown he can lead a team (McLaren), and he’s got a relationship with key figures at Mercedes. He will have no problem signing a short-term contract and being a gap driver until Mercedes can take a run at Vettel, which Button probably wasn’t willing to do.

26

Schumacher racing for Mercedes next year? My heart says yes – I’d love to see him back. But my head says no – what’s he got to prove, what’s in it for him? Easy to see the upside for Mercedes. Not so sure what MS has to gain.

James – I can’t see him coming back, personally. But if he did how do you think he’d get on? It’s 3 long years since he hung up his helmet as a race driver. At 41, could he really come back anywhere near as strong as he used to be?

27

It would be very exciting to see Schumacher back in F1, up against Hamilton, Vettel etc, but I can’t see it happening. He surely wouldn’t have signed a new deal with Ferrari if he was considering a full-race return. I could understand why Mercedes might make a play for him, as he’s clearly a better bet than the solid, but unspectacular, Heidfeld. f he did return, he’d have some pre-season testing to get up to speed, so would have no problems finding the limit again, but he has nothing to prove whatsoever. This story is just too good to be true.

I’d love to see him take on Le Mans again, though. Montezemolo dropped hints this year that Ferrari should come back to the 24 Hours…who better to lead the team than a formula 1 world champ! What do you reckon, James? Would the greater technical freedom at Le Mans tempt Schumi back into a glitzy new Ferrari LMP1?

28

Maybe. He was very fast there the one time I saw him there in a Mercedes

29

Dear old Eddie likes to stir things up.

30

Schumacher is already racing for another team……………Forget Mercedes……He is racing for Tonykart this weekend in the USA in Las Vegas for the Supernationals Kart race in the Superpro KZ2 class!

31

The other good blog is joe sawards – hope James doesn’t mind me mentioning that. I think the two compliment each other well actually with slightly different perspectives

32

James,

Is there the slightest chance that the surprise Mercedes Benz are talking about is Lewis Hamilton? This could be payback for Button or the plan all along.

After all why has he been on mute since the whole Macca-Button signing?

Your thoughts

33

You really need to get real! 🙂

Massa makes surprise switch to Lotus to make his dream come true since he always wanted to drive for Lotus after seeing his idol Senna.

James, any thoughts on this probable scenario! 🙂

34

No Hamilton is staying put for the time being

35

I think Mr Allen’s best guess on this is the most valid rather than EJ’s PR words, writing two autobiographies I’d hope so anyway!

EJ really has spoken some junk this year and the sexual tension between him and DC occasionally made my toes curl.

36

Two autobiographies? That sounds more like Eddie than James. Perhaps that’s just the foreword …

37

Can’t see it happening.

MS’s spokeswoman not ruling anything out keeps the ball (and print press) rolling, so this is more publicity for MS and Mercedes/Brawn, after McLaren got the headlines last week.

38

Haha good ol Eddie stirring it up! Bernie should get EJ in the FIA PR department. He’s gotten F1, Schumi and himself all over the media.

I wonder how painful was it to see Rubens driving so well last season. Schumi probably sat there thinking he could of easily won another WDC if he was in that Brawn.

Personally I don’t see him coming back but if he does I’m packing my bag and going to Spa to see the master at work.

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