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Schumacher to quit? Just another F1 rumour

October 02, 2003 14:10 IST

Formula One rarely takes no for an answer. No matter how many times Michael Schumacher denies that his retirement is imminent, there will still be people watching next week's Japanese Grand Prix expecting some emotional announcement.

Last Sunday, after the 34-year-old had won the U.S. Grand Prix and all but secured his record sixth championship, the German faced the inevitable question yet again.

"What is true about these rumours that you are going to retire if you get the sixth title?," he was asked. "Nothing," the Ferrari driver replied.

The logic is beguiling: The German has after all won everything there is to win and broken just about every record in the book.

He has two young children, a happy marriage and more money than he can possibly spend. Why stay, driving around in circles risking his life when he could be doing something more challenging?

Why not quit at the top?

Former champion Jackie Stewart, who did just that, thinks Schumacher should: "I was able to start another life when I retired at 34," he said last weekend. "There's more to do than driving racing cars, believe me."


Others wonder why Sauber have yet to confirm Brazilian Felipe Massa as their second driver. Are Ferrari reluctant to release their young test driver and if so why?

Those around Schumacher say it is all nonsense.

"Does he look like someone who wants to retire?," his spokeswoman Sabine Kehm said. "I think by now the questions are getting on his nerves. He's always being asked if he's about to retire.

"I would be totally surprised if he did. Everything I know about him is that, no, he won't do this. He wouldn't have extended his contract to 2006."

Manager Willi Weber added: "Michael has a contract with Ferrari until 2006 and he's definitely going to fulfil it. We've said that time and time again."

The trouble is that it is sometimes hard to tell the difference between fantasy Formula One and the real thing because the two are so closely entwined.

Everyone gets caught up in it.

Kimi Raikkonen and David Coulthard at McLaren next season? Confirmed, but...according to paddock gossip there is still a chance of Juan Pablo Montoya replacing the Scot, with Mark Webber moving from Jaguar to Williams.

Never mind that Williams technical director Patrick Head said on Saturday there were no circumstances under which Montoya would not fulfil his 2004 contract.

No sooner had the Colombian's title hopes evaporated on Sunday than the rumour resurfaced, louder than ever as one of a number of high profile moves being discussed.

Renault technical director Mike Gascoyne is widely considered to have joined Toyota, despite the absence of any confirmation from either side, while Takuma Sato is in line to replace Canadian Jacques Villeneuve at BAR.

The former champion, whose uncertain future has provided reams of speculation, grinned when asked about the power of the rumour mill to grind down even the biggest names.

"You try to use them (the rumours) to your advantage," he said. "Rumours are fun so they will always exist. People need to have a little bit of fun.

"It's important to know what the rumours are so you are aware of what is going on, you are aware of what people think or why they think it.

"And then you just have to throw the ball back, you just have to start playing the game. It's not a game I enjoy playing but it's a very important game.

"Rumours in F1 are quite huge," added Villeneuve. "The media doesn't ignore them, the fans don't ignore them, sponsors don't ignore them, the people who sign your contract don't ignore them. So you cannot ignore them yourself."


Villeneuve said they were also insidious.

"Once your brain has heard it, some little part of you will still see it as true and will react to it as being true even though you know it's not," he said.

"So that's where the danger lies.

"When rumours start, there's something igniting the fire so even though it's not true, something must have been said somewhere.

"You get to a point where nothing would surprise you."

Schumi to quit? Unlikely, but you never know.

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