AUGUST 2, 1999

When will Schumacher come back?

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER may not be back in action in Formula 1 as quickly as had been expected.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER may not be back in action in Formula 1 as quickly as had been expected. Schumacher has revealed that the injuries he suffered in his high-speed accident at Silverstone may take longer to heal as they include a cracked heel.

Schumacher's manager Willi Weber told German reporters last week that it would be "12 to 16 weeks now" because Michael has not made the step forward which had been expected. This has led to speculation that he might even be out until the end of the year. "Michael will not come back unless he is 100% fit," Weber said, "and it does not make sense to talk about when he will be back because it is up to the doctors."

Damage to a heel can take many different forms and much depends on the exact location of the cracks because they can affect the articulation of the ankle joint and the ability to put weight on the foot. If the cracks are bad they can also affect the leverage of the calf muscles.

But while the medical situation is far from clear, there are sound political reasons for Michael to stay away from Formula 1 for the rest of the year. He cannot win the World Championship and it is unlikely that he will be happy to play a supporting role to Eddie Irvine. With victories in Austria and Germany, Irvine is now 20 points clear of Schumacher in the WorldÊChampionship with six races remaining. Mika Salo proved at Hockenheim that he is capable of not only helping Irvine but that he can actually beat him as well and that is good news for Ferrari's quest to win the Constructors' Championship. Michael may not be needed.

While there have been a few wild rumors suggesting that Michael might even quit F1 for good, this is not very likely although he may take advantage of the situation to have a long break and a rest from the rigorous job he has been doing now for the last eight years. This might result in him returning next year rested and even more motivated to achieve his goal of winning World Championships with Ferrari.