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Schumacher stays at Ferrari

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER is to stay at Ferrari until the end of the 2002 season in a three-year deal which is rumored to be worth in the region of $125m to the 29-year-old German. This will make him one of the most highly-paid sportsmen in the world. Schumacher signed a deal with Ferrari for 1996 and 1997 and then extended the deal to cover 1998 and 1999. The new deal is for three years, which suggests that Michael is more than happy with the way the team operates and it may be that he intends to continue with the Italian team until he retires from the sport, as has been rumored in the past. The deal is a big financial leap forward for Schumacher who is currently being paid around $22m a year.

In addition to driving for Ferrari, Schumacher will act as an ambassador for Fiat, Ferrari's parent company and will probably be involved as a consultant in the same way that Jackie Stewart worked for many years with the FordÊMotorÊCompany.

Schumacher's future at Ferrari was never in any great doubt as none of the other F1 teams were in a position to make a serious bid for his services. Williams has never been keen on high salaries and McLaren does not need his winning edge at the moment as the MP4/13 remains the dominant car in F1 this year, despite Schumacher's three consecutive wins which were all triumphs of race-craft and clever strategy rather than victories of outright speed. Ferrari has also announced that it has extended its contract with Jean Todt until the middle of 2001.

The main question mark over Ferrari now is how the team is going to pay Schumacher's salary. With Schumacher taking a role with Fiat it is safe to assume that Ferrari's parent company has agreed to provide more money. Marlboro spent years building up its relationship with Ferrari and is delighted to be closely associated with the Italian marque and will pay whatever is necessary to maintain that role. Shell will probably continue although there have been suggestions that the oil company could be linked with the new Honda F1 team.

Eddie Irvine's status with the team is yet to be confirmed beyond the end of the year, but there is little reason for change if his demands are reasonable. The Ulsterman has proved to be a loyal number two who does not make trouble and, this year at least, has backed up Schumacher with some good points scores. Irvine is not in demand among the other top teams, although he might be able to get a job as a number one driver with an outfit like Jordan.

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