Friday, October 8, 2010

Schumacher 'is not leaving early'

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher is signed to a three-year contract by Mercedes

Speculation that Michael Schumacher could lose his drive in Formula 1 at the end of next season has been dismissed by his Mercedes team.

The seven-time world champion returned to F1 at the start of this campaign following three years in retirement.

But he has failed to live up to expectations and been regularly out-performed by team-mate Nico Rosberg.

However, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug said: "He is as good as he ever was, probably better."

The German newspaper Bild reported this week that Schumacher had been warned by his team that he would not see out the final year of his three-year contract unless he raised his game.

But that claim was rejected by Haug, who insisted the 41-year-old remained a key component of the team.


Haug said: "Of course there was no ultimatum. We are currently a little bit handicapped with our car but I have no complaints and no regrets that we're going to achieve our target. We need to work hard.

"Michael is relaxed, concentrated. He doesn't need anybody to defend him, certainly not me but we are very happy with the job he's doing.

"If you take into consideration that he was not in Formula One for three years, we are heading in the right direction and there is certainly not an ultimatum."

Schumacher is on 46 points from 15 races so far this season with no podium finishes, while Rosberg has 122 points and three podium finishes.

But Schumacher finished eighth in the opening two practice sessions for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka and was faster than Rosberg in both.

"I think Michael again showed his class, his full commitment," Haug continued.

"I'm happy and I think the Formula One community should be very happy to have Michael."

Last month BBC Sport pundit Eddie Jordan predicted Schumacher might quit at the end of this season, although this was denied by Mercedes boss Ross Brawn as well as the German's manager.

Experts have speculated Schumacher has been unable to adapt his driving style to the particular characteristics of the Mercedes car and the tyres used this year.

He has also come under fire for his driving and was punished for almost pushing Williams driver Rubens Barrichello into the pit wall at the Hungarian Grand Prix in August, a move that earned him a 10-place penalty on the grid at the next race.

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