OCTOBER 1, 2012
Schumacher looking at Sauber future?
The distinct lack of any reference to Michael Schumacher's future in Mercedes' announcement of Lewis Hamilton's arrival last Friday, suggests that the seven times champion has not fully decided to hang up his crash helmet for good.
Schumacher said at Spa that he would announce his plans in October but words spoken by Bernie Ecclestone to Eddie Jordan in a BBC TV interview in Belgium alluded to the fact that "F1 was going to miss Michael" -- which suggested that F1's impressario knew something everyone else did not.
Ecclestone denied as much but his comments did seem pointed and many prepared for Michael's full-time exit. If that was the case though, what better time for Mercedes to also announce Schumacher's retention in whatever form of management/ambassadorial-type role that best suited?
But It didn't happen and it may be that Schumacher's indecision forced Mercedes to make the first move. And it's just possible that signing Hamilton, who new Mercedes board member Niki Lauda considers to be the fastest driver in the world, was necessary to keep the MB board happy about future prospects.
Schumacher has not driven badly in 2012, even if his Singapore exit was a little embarrassing and such bad timing. And at the moment, the simple fact is that there's at least one spare Sauber available for 2013.
The loss of Sergio Perez cannot be good news for Peter Sauber, although it is possible that he can safeguard Telmex support by promoting Mexican GP2 driver Esteban Gutierrez, already the team's test and reserve driver, to a race seat.
Long term though, with Telmex tipped as a potential McLaren title sponsor on the back of Perez if Vodafone rethinks its F1 involvement, there could be worrying times ahead for Sauber.
Peter Sauber has always been both a 'racer' and shrewd businessman, who has managed to keep his F1 team alive through thick and thin for 20 years. There probably couldn't be a better time for him to have a certain M Schumacher in one of his cars...
Mercedes is also a loyal company and can't feel comfortable about the Hamilton/Schumacher situation. It could be, therefore, that there may just be a subsidised Mercedes turbo engine deal to be done, with Sauber 's CEO Monisha Kaltenborn having already expressed grave concern about the impact that more expensive turbo engines could have on privateer teams.
Schumacher joining Sauber would also have a certain romance to it. It was Peter Sauber's sportscar team that shot a young Michael to international prominence in the World Sportscar Championship in 1990-'91. It could be great timing for both of them to renew their association a couple of decades on. The Sauber C31 has also been highly impressive in 2012 and Schumacher might just fancy taking the fight to Hamilton and Mercedes with its successor.
On the subject of Schumacher driving for Sauber, Kaltenborn told the German Bild newspaper: "Of course it's nice to think of such a possibility, that we can ask ourselves if we can get a seven-time world champion when he is on the market."
There is, of course, still the second Ferrari seat to be decided for 2013, although Nico Hulkenberg is believed to be a strong contender for that. Schumacher going back to Maranello would also be a great story for F1, but would Ferrari want to pay Alonso and Schumacher at the same time? Also, it could interfere with any ambassadorial-type association Schumacher may have with Mercedes in future years.
Sauber and Michael though, might just happen...