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Schumacher – it’s the moment of truth
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Schumacher – it’s the moment of truth
Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Dec 2009   |  8:01 pm GMT  |  195 comments

Michael Schumacher – back in Formula 1?

That is the word this weekend, thanks to an article in Bild, the German equivalent of the Sun.

Schumacher_Europe'09_023
There are two possible sources of this story – for as long as I can remember Bild has been Willi Weber’s favourite method of leaking stories. Weber is Schumacher’s manager. But Mercedes’ boss Norbert Haug has also been known to let things out through that route.

“The contract is ready to be signed,” said Bild, referring to the one year deal, supposedly agreed between the two sides.

Bild says that the announcement will come next week and if it does it will surprise most people in F1, me included; it’s hard to see what’s in it for Schumacher apart from getting some middle-aged kicks.

There is plenty in it for Mercedes and for Bernie Ecclestone and it would be a disaster for Ferrari, who will lose 15 years of expensively acquired brand association to a rival car company.

And on that side, there are some details here which don’t quite add up. Ferrari recently agreed a three year deal with Schumacher, although this has yet to be signed, we are told. But I know for a fact that there are separate contracts in place with Ferrari sponsors, which would clash with a Mercedes deal. As late as the end of last week those sponsors had not been approached about releasing Schumacher from his obligations.

This is perhaps the purpose and timing of the Bild story, to present a fait accompli to Schumacher’s existing employers. It’s the ‘moment of truth’ and it looks like both Schumacher and Mercedes are up for it. So now it’s a question of whether his employers are up for letting him go quietly.

Ever since Jenson Button made the dramatic decision to quit Brawn Mercedes and move to McLaren, Ross Brawn and his team have been looking for a response.

There is an old saying, “In F1 you are either taking pain or giving it,” and when Brawn pinched Mercedes, McLaren responded vigorously, by seducing their champion driver. He was ripe for it, as Brawn was not giving him what he wanted, having lost a bit of faith in the driver after his mid season wobbles.

One of the Brawn management figures said to me, “As one door closes, another one opens up,” and this is what has led to the evaluation of drafting in Michael Schumacher. It involved Schumacher testing his fitness and no doubt lengthy discussions with Ross Brawn; between these men there are no secrets.

This will not hit McLaren where it hurts, this is about saving face for Mercedes.

Schumacher must know that and it is odd in many ways that a seven times world champion is prepared to offer himself up to be played in that way. Schumacher always set the agenda in his career, he made people bend to his will.

The Button door had to close before the Schumacher door opened up.

Damon Hill has suggested that a comeback year offers Schumacher the chance to improve his image, but what’s done is done and it’s hard to see what he could do this year to change that.

Button is quoted in today’s News of the World saying that Schumacher is on a hiding to nothing by coming back. Implicit in this is a veiled insinuation that the Mercedes car may not be the pace setter next season.

“Schumacher coming back to F1 is great news for the sport,” Button said, “But I don’t know if it will be great news for Michael Schumacher. He will be putting his reputation on the line coming back into the sport.”

Lance Armstrong has come back this year in a much more physically demanding sport and done well. He is not at the peak of his earlier career, but he’s enjoying himself. This may well have influenced Schumacher, who has appeared bored by life without racing since he stopped.

Meanwhile Schumacher’s former Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa is to have another test in the 2007 Ferrari before Christmas, which is permitted under testing restrictions.

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1

I would think MS is one of the few drivers on the grid who has had to start an F1 race with full tanks.

Also I seem to remember all those years ago when he raced for Mercedes! in sportscars – driving fast, saving fuel and tyres was one of things Ross Brawn at Jaguar noted about MS.

2

I was very unconvinced to begin with about the Schumacher/Merc rumours when they first started appearing last month, but now, as one of the biggest Schumi fans, I am praying this is going to happen.

James, do you have any idea when the deal (if, of course, it’s going ahead) is likely to be signed? I don’t want to have to wait to hear this news, this will make my year.

3

James
are you sure merc are not signing ralf Schumacher ? 😉 now that would be funny.

how many test days are there pre season and when do they start ? Is it mid feb?

4

Three tests in Spain

5

Not particularly kind on the tires. If only he had been he may have won the wdc title 😉

James, any plans on articles on virgin, usg1 and campos?

6

James —

How will Schumi like — and do you think his decision was affected by — the rules changes for ’10? (No refueling; new points system; etc.)

I thought I was a Ferrari fan first and a Schumi fan second … but this possibility makes me think I had it backwards!

7

I think this spells out bad news for Massa. If the Merc is competitive and has Schumi behind the wheel, then Ferrari may sideline Massa to completely support Alonso to beat Schumacher. I don’t think they will count on Schumi’s “younger brother” to beat him in a fair and sqaure fight on-track. Besides, I think Massa doesn’t have the mental ability to take Schumacher head-on.

This is my analysis on a very obscure angle but who knows maybe this is already worrying Massa.

8

Very brave move by M.S. if he does it. Hats off.

When was the last time he raced in Formula 1 without traction control? 16 years ago?

9

Some say he’s never raced an F1 car without traction control 🙂

10

2000 (+ first 4 races in 2001)

11

I was initially unsure about Schumacher’s comeback idea, but the more I think about it, the more I like the sound of it. He’s still in good shape and, from what I’ve read, his neck injury has healed. How cool for a 41 year old former champion to come back and test himself against a new generation. Vettel and Hamilton are two drivers he has never raced against, whilst he had only a few races against Kubica. If he does return, it will be fascinating to see how he does in any wheel-to-wheels with them. He is also the only top driver available to Mercedes and is perfect to lead the team until they can poach Vettel. One thought that came into my head…Rosberg didn’t want to fight Hamilton at McLaren, I wonder how he really feels about taking on Schumi in a team run by Ross Brawn…

12

Surely it’s all but certain by now. Every man and his dog is reporting the come back is on and Ferrari will not stand in his way. Well done Eddie J for predicting this one, almost makes me wonder if Eddie’s prediction set the band wagon in motion to further convince Schu to go for it..Cause and Effect..

13

The Ferrari angle was never a show stopper. At best it would mean having to pay up for a minor contract, nothing that would effect racing in F1. As was shown with Kimi, it may mean you have to financially honour the terms of the contract, but that’s about it.

The question is now, will he, won’t he?

14

The return of Schumi is awesome for those that did not get to see him race live I am sure the fans will be out for the upcoming year in the masses ..I am taking my girl to Montreal for witness the Greatest racer of all time.

15

Good move. You should always take advantage of opportunities like that in life

16

James,

If your sources are correct and Schumacher is going to Mercedes, would you rate Schumacher’s Merc move or Alonso’s Ferrari foray (apologies) as the worst kept secret? 🙂

17

Alonso, definitely. It went on for nine months…

18

All this chitter chatter – I feel the need to call James out to put in an early Schumi prediction on record.

Will Schumi/Ross deliver a win and will they mount a championship run?

19

I’d never predict like that until I’ve seen the cars testing. Ask me again mid February

20

Everyone’s going on about sponsorship arrangements… do you think Schumacher is actually motivated by money at this point? He probably has enough that he doesn’t need any more whatsoever. But money can’t buy the thrill of driving and racing…

I suspect that he will follow his heart and do what he wants, even if it means he loses out financially.

21

it’s a strange thing to happen

when a driver in prime like raikkonen has to go out of the sport unwillingly

there we see an old horse coming back in the fold

it will definitely be a hard job for shumi to beat his teammate this time round

the sport is made for marketing and media men people

what they say/want eventually happens.

22

By the way, James, did Eddie Jordan reveal that Mercedes were considering Schumacher before or after Jenson Button left for McLaren? I’m asking because it would give us an indication as to whether Michael was being considered as an option at an earlier period, and therefore, whether Button was pushed out.

23

I think the reason for Schumi and Mercedes (Brawn) is because it’s pay back time for Schumi. Mercedes gave him an f1 license and education. Ferrari accepts that. Ferrari is looking for another frontfigure after Schumi and found Alonso. Let’s not forget Massa. Both are talking at least three languages, important for FIAT and their market operandi. Of course this would never have happened with Mercedes and McLaren. But now together with Brawn Schumi will drive for them. Learning Rosberg how to become star driver and waiting for Vettel to come after 2011!!!

Montezemolo will create a new staff of people around him. Including Alonso and Massa. After 2010, assuming Ferrari will be the worldchampions again, he will also step down. Leaving it all to the next generation of Ferrari leadership.

24

I’d also say it makes perfect sens since Kimi wanted McLaren or nothing (I’m sure they’ve talked to him). If Mercedes wants to fight Hamilton/Button, Massa/Alonso, Vettel/Webber, then Schumacher is the only real choice. As I wrote before, Heidfeld, Kubica or whoever you want in the second Brawn is the guarantee not to be able to fight for the championships, and this is not what Mercedes has planned in buying Brawn.

25

“At the start of the 1992 Formula One season the Sauber team, planning their Formula One debut with Mercedes backing for the following year, invoked a clause in Schumacher’s contract which stated that if Mercedes entered Formula One, Schumacher would drive for them”

Interesting piece from Michaels wiki page. I wonder whether Michael wants to repay Mercedes for paying for his F1 debut and giving him his shot. Now that Mercedes have officially entered F1, Michael is there willing to drive. Starting and finishing his career with Mercedes.

Another chapter for the book James? 🙂

26

Undoubtedly..

27

– Would Rosberg have a “no win” contract?

– If this is true, then what a shock and a nightmare it must be for Ferrari… they’d have to fight Michael Schumacher for the first time since 1995! Would they try to retain him in the team, and would they be ready to offer him Massa’s seat?

28

If nothing else, I’m looking forward to Michael coming back to F1 so we (in the UK) can have more of those hysterically funny awkward interviews between Martin Brundle and Schumacher, where Michael would just smirk and refuse to answer any of Martin’s amusing questions.

29

Michael still loves to compete. Racing is on is Dna.

It seems he is quite fit. I (we) know him quite well, physicaly the man was a “beast” and it was easy to see that in the end of each race he never looked tired. Besides being very fast and reliable/consistent, he was mentally and physically very very strong. And I do believe he still keeps that huge strength.

Technicaly he is superb. He drives beautifully, and he knows everything about those cars. If he works with Ross Brawn, it will be even easier because they understand each other exceptionally well.

If you ask me wether I expect him to perform like in the old times, I couldn´t answer that one. I know that he still likes to take big risks, but sometimes in F1 big risks mean to be crazy. I have no doubts that Hamilton is a superb driver, and that sometimes he pushes the car much beyond the limits. Well, I will never forget Senna who was by far and large the only guy who, till today, could drive consistently beyond the limits. He had a kind of magic…

Will Michael be able, or disposed, at his age, to make those crazy and well succeeded moves …that (sometimess) he was used to play in the past. I have some doubts.

I wish him all the luck. For me the only big downside of his return to F1 is his exposure to an eventual big accident. I would be very sad…

All the other possible things that could go wrong in this “encore” don´t matter. If he looses some shine, well…he is so rich that he can afford to loose something. With so many hundred millions in the bank he can afford to do whatever he wants.

30

Well, I can imagine with Alonso at Ferrari, it would be fitting for Schumacher to move on. As Alonso is seen as his replacement.

I really dont see it happening though, Yes a 1 year deal would make sense while Mercedes go after Vettel. But really Schumacher is such a corporate entity now and with so many ties/sponsors to Ferrari, could such a move to Mercedes be feasible?

It surprises me that Mercedes would perpetuate this rumour unless there was more behind it. If as expected Schumacher stays at Ferrari, Mercedes will be left announcing a driver who wont inspire such headlines.

One can only assume that Mercedes are very up for it, but the ball is in Schumacher’s court. He did admit he wanted to drive last season, to refuse this now may negatively effect his image (certainly cannot see him driving for Ferrari again regardless).

I imagine most people dont see this happening, but there’s obviously more to it.

31
Christopher Snowdon

I love Shumi, but I think this Mercedes seat should have belonged to Kimi. I myself want Fernando in a red car, but Kimi should have been in the silver one. It would have been a mouth watering prospect. As for Schumi he should be the ambassador for the sport and continued his duties at Ferrari (his home from home). Having said that, Kimi has gone for now, and Schumi is not a bad replacement and will soften the blow of loosing the fastest driver in the world should he get the drive.

James we can’t ignore that since Jean Todt took over F1’s reigns, we finally seen some sense and good swift decisions, do you think he may have had a part to play here? And if this does happen, how will it affect Ferrari not having him around the paddock and in particular Massa (who has a crucial season coming up). We can’t ignore the fact that it was Todt, Brawn, Stepney and Schumi who were the real cogs at Ferrari, neither of them are there anymore.

32

I sincerely hope we do not see Schum racing again.

The only years I did not watch F1 at all was when Schum was winning everything anyway… The very name gives me that same bad taste in my mouth again, makes me think of those boring years when Ferrari won everything anyway…

I’d rather see new drivers than another rehash of the Schum.

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