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The latest on Schumacher, Ferrari and Mercedes
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The latest on Schumacher, Ferrari and Mercedes
Posted By: James Allen  |  25 Nov 2009   |  7:06 pm GMT  |  108 comments

The rumours around the possible return of Michael Schumacher to Formula 1 with Mercedes continue to swirl, but Ferrari remain calm and expect the seven times world champion to stay with them for the next three years as a consultant.

Schumacher in Action in Las Vegas (Photo: Todd McCall)

Schumacher in Action in Las Vegas (Photo: Todd McCall)


The latest twist is that Schumacher has not yet physically signed his new three year consultancy agreement with Ferrari. Schumacher’s manager Willi Weber said on Tuesday in Germany that he could not say whether the deal had been signed, even though it was all agreed and this is my understanding from the Ferrari side too.

However, what many commentators are overlooking is that Schumacher’s deal with Ferrari is not confined to his consultancy role on the road car side and the F1 team, he also has obligations with Ferrari sponsors, particularly Shell, for whom he is a valuable asset and there are programmes in place for 2010.

At Ferrari they are treating the latest rumours with a relaxed attitude. No-one from Schumacher’s side has come to them asking to be released and those who worked closely with the German during his time there do not believe that he would want to put himself back into the hurly burly of a full time F1 race role, especially with a brand like Mercedes, which would require a huge amount of promotional days from him.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said the other day, “If he wanted to leave (to race in F1) we would not stop him,” but privately the people at Maranello are expecting to work with Schumacher for another three years and would be astonished if he were to commit himself to a return to full time racing.

Schumacher raced in a kart event in Las Vegas last weekend and his doctor Johannes Peil has said that his neck will be back to 100% fitness and strength by Christmas.

Schumacher is enjoying his occasional racing outings at the moment; he won the Nations Cup at the Race of Champions with Sebastian Vettel and said last weekend, “I still, after all those years, have a lot of fun driving – and surprisingly I was even quite successful at these sporadic entries. I simply enjoy this pureness in karting, the direct fights, the duels wheel-to-wheel.”

By not coming out and denying the Mercedes stories, Schumacher and Mercedes boss Norbert Haug are keeping themselves in positive headlines, building to fever pitch in Germany, which keeps the Schumacher brand strong and neutralises the damage caused to Mercedes by Jenson Button’s defection to McLaren. Weber is actively fanning the rumours and there is a feeling that this is a giant game.

Meanwhile sources close to the WRC suggest that Kimi Raikkonen is close to agreeing a deal with Citroen to compete in next year’s world championship, so the prospect of a Mercedes line up of Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld is gaining momentum. But Ross Brawn has said that the team is on no hurry to sign a second driver and with the Qadbak takeover of Sauber still to be confirmed, Heidfeld doesn’t have any other pressing options.

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1

Malcolm, you’re not the first one to think about Ralf.

It makes sense for the name grab.

Let’s not forget Ralf is only 34 years old. Also let’s not foget that Ralf can race just fine. He kept pretty darn close to Mantoya at competitive BMW-Williams. Toyota spoiled him with those fat crazy contracts and crappy cars. Pretty easy to get Schumacher name and Mercedes together this way. After all, it’s not like the Senna name that will be on the grid is the Senna we think about. Same with Ralf – you have the “brand”

Obviously where there is a will, there is a way for Michael to come back with Mercedes. He is loyal to Ferrari, but more loyal to Brawn – who’s behind all his success. But does anyone honestly believe that he would do a deal with Mercedes only? It would have to be a 2 year deal, and it would be a fat contract with Mercedes, AND another fat contract with Bernie on the side – as we all know the ratings would go through the roof. Weber and Michael would be silly not to ask for a chunk of that. Their case was made when Michael announced that he will come back – didn’t the whole world go crazy? Didn’t Valencia ticket sales go in no time? Those type of deals – ones with Bernie, take time.

Michael comeback for $10-20M is just not happening. It will take $100M/year minimum to get the man to give up time with family. If this happens it will not only make headlines for the comeback, but the numbers involved. It would take that much for me if I was in his shoes. He just doesn’t need the money or the championships. He can afford to look after what’s really important – his private life, his kids, his wife.

P.S. Mercedes better be ready to commit to a championship car or huge monetary payout to Michael if the car is not in the top two constructor positions. I’d ask for that too if I was Michael. Wouldn’t you?

2

I figured it out…

RALF Schumacher!

He’s got ties with Mercedes in DTM… 😉

Or would that be too shocking? haha.

3

Heidfeld? Yawn…

4

Regarding all those that say “what has he got to prove?” or “what are his motivations?”

He’s a racing driver. He’s passionate about racing. He clearly has nothing to prove, as evidenced by racing a kart in Las Vegas. However, he knows he’s still fast, and he probably wants to try his hand at the new era of cars with slicks… and I bet the fire is still burning in his belly.

As for potential drivers other than Michael, I could see Heikki signing on. He’s already got a relationship with Mercedes, and he’s proven himself to be a quick driver.

Out of all the drivers, if I was Ross Brawn, I would be seriously looking at Heidfeld. He’s proven his worth against Kubica, he’s got a lot of fighting spirit, and he’d be a great benchmark against Rosberg (who I don’t expect to do particularly well). He fits in with their tight budget. He’s got a lot of pros, and few cons. Why else would BMW have held on to him for so long if he wasn’t a strong driver?

5
Hans joergen Stroem

could there be any truth in the saying that Schumi was instrumental in getting rid of Kimi at Ferrari, and Alonso into the team? especially getting rid of Kimi!

6

2010…

Mercedes – Schumacher (Alonso)/Rosberg.

Ferrari – Massa/Alonso (Schumacher).

Citroen – Raikkonen.

Reasons?

Shumacher’s relationship with Merc & NH, and the changes over the last two years at Ferrari.

MS’s 2010/11 Ferrari commitments & corporate contracts.

Ferrari’s line-up – a done deal way before the Brawn Mercedes tie-in. OK, they needed to secure Alonso quickly but they wish they had waited now.

Alonso’s contract with Ferrari would not stand in the way of an MS return.

Raikonen’s reputation is a serious negative for Mercedes (and Ferrari). He’s Finnish and Fins/Scandinavians have a totally different mentality to Europeans. They cry, they drink, they pout. Come to think of it, we’re getting more like them.

I cannot recall looking forward to a following season as much as 2010.

Rock on, James.

7

hopeful for it to happen, doubtful it will

8

Merc are waiting for Kimi to decide between WRC and F1.

9

Kimi is waiting for Merc to decide if they can afford him.

10

I think he’ll have a long wait

11

At the time, I didn’t read anything into Schumacher’s absence from the Ferrari finals event (the Valencia one where Luca de Montezemolo chauffeured his drivers into a gravel trap) but all the other Ferrari drivers were present.

I didn’t read much into Button’s absence from the Brawn event in Brackley either…

12
Mike from Medellin, Colombia

James, what is Fisichella’s situation for next year?

I get the impression that Ferrari over-compromised themselves by offering him a reserve role as a result of Badoer’s disappointing performance.

Fisichella did not perform much better. Is the deal with him for 2010 still on? I would not be surprised if Ferrari were not a bit worried about this.

13

He told me in Abu Dhabi that he might go back to Force India and he’s in the frame at Sauber through the Ferrari connection

14

I can’t see Michael Schumacher coming back. He has achieved everything possible in formula one and it would do nothing to enhance what we already know…one of the best racing drivers of all time.

Mercedes I think will try and go for Kimi but I’m not sure if they can afford him so Nick Heidfeld is the credit crunch option.

I have just ordered a copy of your book, look forward to reading it.

15

Isn’t Schumacher on a promise from Jean Todt for a job within the FIA?

Are there any other Mercedes drivers who could be considered for the seat? anyone from DTM? Spengler or Di Resta might be a risk but would be sponsor friendly. Is Gary Paffet’s F1 test contract with Mclaren or Mercedes?

I think we’ll end up with a line up of Rosberg and Kubica at Mercedes, with Renault selling to the Russians and Dave Richards.(Renault will stay on as an engine supplier)

Quick Nick will find a nice drive in WTCC replacing Alex Zanardi

16

It is pay back time for Michael. Remember how much Mercedes helped him in the early stages of his carrier. He was part of the Mercedes junior team, wasn’t he? Now, Mercedes needs him more than ever I think.

17

I’m really hoping against hope that all this delay in Mercedes’ 2nd driver line-up announcement is because of continuing negotiations with Kimi & his managers, but somehow, I feel this is not the case. Going by James’ sources, then Kimi’s 2010 sabbatical will be F1’s loss and WRC’s gain.

Nothing against Heidfeld because he’s been a consistent and uncontroversial racer but Mercedes should have a star billing like Raikkonen who’s won fantastic races with their engine during his McLaren tenure.

As for Schumacher’s comeback, he should let history be instead of teasing his F1 fans with silly, unrealistic fantasy comeback.

The “surprise” headline that Norbert Haug should deliver is how he coaxed Kimi out of signing for the WRC… Now, perhaps this is my own unrealistic fantasy ?!?

18

As a huge Schumacher fan it would be fantastic to see him return with Ross Brawn. THis is what the fans want and I would guess deep down that Schumacher would want as well. We can only hope!

Whilst Writing – James – we miss you on in the commentry box. Get back in there with Martin!!

19

James,

I could not help but be underwhelmed by a combination of Heidfeld/Rosberg at Brawn even though I have followed Nico from his Formula BMW days. I am a big fan and am delighted to see him get his chance but I feel that he really needs a fast team mate over the next two years so we can truly gauge his speed against the other so called ‘Top Tier’ drivers ie Alonso, Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel, (Massa & Button?)

The only way of doing this is to put him in a car alongside one of the above. I feel that the only option is for Norbert Haug to take a deep breath and sign Raikkonen on a 2 year deal until they can get Vettel at the end of 2011, by which time Rosberg will be fully up to speed (or prove himself incapable of doing so) and Merc GP will be the Teutonic dream team they aspire to be! You have to speculate to accumulate and balance Kimi’s increased retainer up against the publicity value of winning GP’s and (hopefully) championships. I feel that anyone is in doubt of this they should only take one look on YouTube at Raikkonen scything his way around Fisi on the last lap of Suzuka 2005.

“Grand Prix racing at it’s absolute finest!” was how you described it James and I can only pose this question – Could you imagine Nick Heidfeld pulling off not only a move of that quality but stringing together a race punctuated by such pancahe and flair? I personally couldn’t but that is merely my opinion.

Finally, I know this is slighly off topic but there is one man on the merry-go-round that I feel has been overlooked..

Where does all of this leave Heikki Kovaleinen? I know that he is not a viable option for Brawn/Merc but surely he is a very attractive option elsewhere with three years experience in frontline teams?

PS I think it is clear from the above that the Schumacher/Merc saga is merely oneupmanship in the media arms race between Merc GP and McLaren.

20

I think Schumi must be lining up for Merc IF Renault doesn’t pull out – if Renault pulls out then surely Mercs future is with Kubica.

21

The more I think about it, the more I cannot see this move happening.

Whilst Mercedes would have loved to hook up with MS in his prime, he would liklely suffer (relatively – he’d still be quick) in performance terms against the Hamiltons and Alonsos of this world. This would not be good for either Mercedes or MS.

Also, his allegiance to Ferrari is still strong. He has not been connected to Mercedes since 1990/1991, which was sport cars, not F1.

Despite their success and close relationship I also don’t think the draw of Ross Brawn is enough to change the direction of his life, and I would think that Ross would want to plough his own furrow, rather than try and rekindle the Ferrari glory years.

I know Ferrari has changed a lot in recent years, but MS has been around during that time and obviously still has much loyalty to the brand and the people, as well as to existing commerical partners (and the contracts could be tricky and expensive to extricate from).

If a similar situation arose in 2010 whereby MS was needed by Ferrari I have little doubt that he’d relish the opportunity. He could pit himself against the best and be under little pressure to deliver. It would be him doing his team a favour, and giving himself an opportunity to do a few races and to have some fun.

A full season is a very different proposition.

Finally, what’s the motivation? Surely it can’t be financial? He’s sitting on a billion dollar fortune.

It can’t be results driven. He’s been there and done it so many times. Does he want to put himself through the mill of a season again?

He’s old(er) too, and having a great time in retirement by all accounts. He still gets to vent his competitive spirit from time to time, and he’s free from the commercial responsibilities that a full-time drive would bring.

Most importantly, MS knew his time in F1 was up. He probably sensed that he was losing his edge – imperceptably to us mere mortals – and took leave whilst he was still at the top of his game – after 15 years in the sport, no mean feat in itself.

He would only come back if he truly knew he still had it – he’s too driven to do a full season for a bit of fun.

Don’t for one minute think I don’t want this to happen.

I do. But it just won’t.

22

I can’t see how Schumacher’s input would help Ferrari, really.

As for his motivation… he is German so would lover to win the world championship in a German car.

23

I think he’s certainly valuable as an ambassador for Ferrari, but you’re right, I’m not sure what value he adds over a race weekend – maybe someone more qualified could shed some light on that.

I don’t think his motivation would be driven by national pride, and I just can’t see him winning another championship unless he steps into a (considerably) better car than Hamilton and Alonso.

24

An interesting insight, as always. Thanks, James. But I’m thinking of Norbert Haug’s statement that the appointments would be “surprising” and I can’t help thinking that it would be no big surprise to appoint Nick Heidfeld. Surely Herr Haug must have something more eye-opening in prospect or he would risk looking rather foolish. It would be a coup for example to pounce on Kimi, as McLaren pounced on Jenson. Any ideas outside the box?

25

Maybe the surprise is that it will be announced really late!

26

Do you think they’ll have bothered asking Hakkinen?!

It seems to me they’re scrabbling around now looking for someone or something to match the hype and steal the story back instead of simply looking for the best driver available. It’s a worrying sign that marketing, image and pride is winning out over substance and racing at the moment!

Not a good start as a race team – but as a publicity stunt? Branson would be proud.

27

I think it makes sense for Schumi to return, but only on a full time basis. A part time return would look like a gimmick and would be unfair to the other drivers who are trying to race for a full season without Schumi coming in at XX races and nicking points off them.

He’s only 41 and I can see no reason why he shouldn’t be capable of racing for several more seasons if he really wants to. He’s already proved himself in F1 (to a certain degree) and there’s no disgrace if he drives well and gets a reasonable performance from the car … which he will do.

Schumi’s unwillingness to rule out a return would suggest that he is seriously thinking about making one. I expect he is waiting to hear if his neck is fully recovered before he makes a final decision.

I think the chances of him racing next year are probably 60/40 that he will.

28

I think there is more fact than fiction in this story of Schumacher’s return. The Schumi-Ferrari relationship has been less than ideal for some time now, and Michael is in no rush to resign with them as an advisor.

So not only would a move to Mercedes be a great finger in the air to Ferrari, but he would be in a great position to fight for the championship. He is such a great driver that the time off will not have slowed him at all I reckon. But he would still want to be as competitive as possible, and the Mercedes is the ticket.

Schumi is very shrewd, and as in racing he leaves nothing to chance, so I feel he really knows what he is doing in this situation.

Bring on 2010, and the return of a legend.

29

I honestly can’t see Kimi pulling out a last-minute switch to Mercedes – I think the WRC needs him too much to stir up some interest after a 6-year Loeb-wash.

“Schumi’s return” is a lot of media wind – it’ll be Heidfeld to provide some solid experience & consistency for Mercedes, and to play a dutiful Barrichello-style partner to the great young hope that is Nico (with whom MB are clearly eyeing the future).

30

Great article

31

Schumi (who’s gear was as good as anyones) did well in Vegas but most of the field were American who aren’t in the same league as the Euro boys. Most of Schumi’s time was spent racing these dudes while the likes of fore, Ardigo, Thonon, Lammers, Nato dissapeared into the distance. Schumacher was the best of Beumi and Piquet Jnr though.

Just goes to show why describing karting ‘as the grassroots of motorsport’ isn’t all that true. It has always been, and remains one of the hardest motorsports to master!

32

I’ve been thinking this evening: there’s another name that we’ve all been talking about coming back, but I’ve never seen linked with the second Merc/Brawn seat: Villeneuve.

What do you reckon guys? Ok, he’s a bit inconsistent, but probably less so than Heidfeld. And if you compare their records:

Heidfeld: 0 wins and one pole from 167 starts.

Villeneuve: 11 wins, 13 poles from 164 starts.

We’ve discussed at length that Mercedes would love a someone who’s a race winner, and ideally someone who’s been a champion. Seeing as Alonso, Hamilton, Button are ruled out, as are Mr Kimi and Schumi by the looks of things, surely JV is the logical option. Merc already have their young german poster boy.

DISCUSS. 🙂

33

Kimi can be close to secure a contract with a WRC team , but the question is for how many races? He is not silly he knows that he needs some races to be competitive. I doubt full season WRC. Mercedes GP and a few races in WRCcould work if Mercedes let him being associated with an other brand too.

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