Honda website
Honda website

AUGUST 23, 2005

Michael and McLaren

The German press has been known to get a little excited over the years about rumours concerning Michael Schumacher but the revelations that the seven-time World Champion has been talking to McLaren are interesting and pose a number of questions. No-one is denying that Michael had two meetings with Mercedes-Benz boss Norbert Haug. Haug says that these meetings were about the future of Formula 1, which seems an improbable remark. Having one meeting is plausible, but two?

One must look, however, at the overall political shape of Formula 1 and it is logical that Ferrari holding hands with Bernie Ecclestone could end up leaving the team in a big mess if Mr E's plans do not go the way he wants them to go. If Michael decides not to retire at the end of 2006, he must ask what opposition there will be for him in his twilight years in F1 if there is a split in F1 at the end of 2007. Scuderia Ferrari may be his first love but the idea of racing identical cars against Red Bull and Jordan and some cobbled-together opposition, presumably using chassis built by Ferrari, is hardly going to enhance his reputation, particularly if it is not a series called F1.

He would be better off fighting with the Raikkonens, Alonsos and Montoyas in the other championship. At the same time, Michael would be a fool not to realise that his presence in one series or the other would be worth a great deal of money to those involved as he is F1's only truly global mega-star. Mercedes-Benz is one of the prime movers in the new series and for Michael the option of taking a pile of Mercedes cash and being in the right championship is one that he must consider.

Chatting with Mercedes and being found out, is also probably not such a bad thing for Michael in the immediate future because the knowledge that Schumacher might even consider a switch to McLaren cannot do anything for the morale of Juan Pablo Montoya at a time when the Colombian is closing fast on Schumacher for third place in the Drivers' Championship. A little extra pressure can always lead to mistakes and Montoya has been known to make a few of them.

The thought that Schumacher might take off from Ferrari is something that may also help to clear the heads down at Ferrari. Michael wants a better package next year.

When all is said and done, however, the big question remains whether or not Michael is going to go on racing beyond 2006. By then he will be 37 years of age and at a time when stopping racing will do him no harm at all. Knowing when to stop is something which most champions find difficult to gauge and few avoid the embarrassing slide in their twilight years, when they believe that they can make a difference when the reality is that they no longer have the desperate competitive urges of younger men.