Following another disappointing performance, Michael Schumacher gave the first real indication that he is willing to reconsider his position in Formula One.
The 42-year-old had no one else to blame than himself for his scruffy drive in Turkey – the German ruthlessly leaving little room for Renault’s Vitaly Petrov into turn 12 at Istanbul, a move which resulted in the German limping to the pits with a damaged front wing.
This costly piece of driving spoiled what could have been a strong race for Schumacher and once again raised questions about his driving standards – but most importantly revealed that he may be lacking motivation.
In the immediate aftermath of the race Schumacher told the BBC that he was not gaining the same satisfaction from the sport has he had in the past – leading to many inside the sport to speculate that the German Is considering hanging up his helmet a year before his current deal with Mercedes GP expires.
Such a suggestion appears to be gathering momentum with the German Manufacturer seemingly readying Force India’s Paul di Resta to step up sooner rather than later.
But looking beyond the contact with Petrov has Schumacher really disappointed this season? Have there been signs of improvement from the German?
Schumacher’s return to the sport was hindered from the start by the restrictions on testing and the design of the Bridgestone tyres for the 2010 season – with the weak design of the front tyres, countered with strong rears failing to suit his driving style. Despite his issues, Schumacher did improve as the season wore on and recorded a string of respectable results at the tail end of the year – most notably a sixth place finish in Japan.
Finishing last season with a flourish gave much hope that Schumacher would kick on in 2011 and once again spearhead his team to glory – especially given that the switch to Pirelli tyres was expected to help him. Ultimately his bid has not been helped by the various issues related to Mercedes’ DRS system, but given the efforts of the team to eradicate these problems the MGP W02 has begun to show signs of competitiveness.
This is something which Schumacher did translate on to the race track during Friday practice and then into qualifying when in Q2 he set a time which was faster than the likes of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. However in Q3 the German could not reproduce such pace and ultimately ended up only eighth on the grid.
However whilst Schumacher is doing a solid job and finding more time as Mercedes work to close the gap at the front, it is still not as good as his team-mate.
Nico Rosberg’s weekend continued to build on his strong showing in China and must have given the German a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the European session. Such a position is so reminiscent of the position Schumacher found himself at Benetton in 1993 when he managed to peerlessly edge out the veteran Riccardo Patrese and move the Enstone-based outfit forward – as the veteran went backwards.
Then the Italian soon realised that the game was up and decided to end his career at the end of the season. Could Turkey have been the moment that Schumacher himself realised that the game is up?
When he announced his return to the sport in late 2009 the seven-time champion had little to prove. Ninety-one victories in a career lasting just over fifteen seasons had seen the German dominate as he restored Ferrari into the winners circle again. However, there is little breathing space in Formula One and times move very quickly. Not even a testing role with Ferrari could help him maintain the same level of competitiveness that was necessary to carry on.
It has always been my opinion that Schumacher should never have been pressured into retiring in the first place. It was a decision that was seemingly made out of his hands and one which he and Ferrari probably still regret – especially given the competitiveness of the 2007 car.
If Schumacher is to retire at the end of the season then his comeback will be perceived to have tainted his illustrious career.
Such a claim would be hugely disrespectful to a man who achieved so much in his prime, and was expected to do the same again – only to find that it wasn’t to be.
But there is still plenty of time for Schumacher to prove the doubters, and even himself, wrong and get on top of his issues.
Only time will tell…
So what do you make of Schumacher’s latest comments? Was his driving in Turkey a sign that he will retire? Should he be given more time to turn it around or should Mercedes look beyond him?