Is the curtain coming down on Michael Schumacher’s disappointing return to Formula One?
While Lewis Hamilton’s future catches all of the headlines with the McLaren vs. Mercedes bidding war, the obvious question is: Who would be leaving to give up the seat in the Silver Arrow?
While ESPN F1 reports that Mercedes are still claiming to be in negotiations with Schumacher, it has become clear that the decision is no longer Schumacher’s alone.
In fact, it is becoming apparent that Schumacher may well be negotiating to drive only if Mercedes is unable to lure Hamilton away from McLaren.
That would be a terrible way for the seven-time world champion to draw a line under a remarkable career. Over 19 seasons, he accumulated seven world titles and 91 race wins. He led 142 races, and covered 5,111 laps and over 24,000 kilometres leading races.
But he hasn’t added to any record of significance since he returned.
A straight comparison of the two Mercedes teammates shows that Schumacher has been comprehensively outclassed by Nico Rosberg.
In the 52 races since his return, Rosberg has outscored the seven-time world champion by a ratio of 3-to-2. This year it’s better than 2-to-1.
Schumacher has only graced the podium once since his return (at third place), Rosberg has been on the podium five times in the same period, and has won the only race for the most recent iteration of Mercedes GP.
Schumacher’s fans will immediately leap to his defence and point out that he has had tremendously bad luck when it comes to car failures. While there’s no doubt that he’s had reliability issues, you have to wonder how much his driving style is contributing to that.
It’s easy to understand why Mercedes wanted Schumacher as the face of the team. A German legend driving a legendary German marque—it’s a marketing dream.
But F1 is all about winning races, and that hasn’t happened for Mercedes with Schumacher.
Bringing him back was a romantic notion, as the thought of him coming out of retirement and reliving old glories certainly had appeal. But there was a reason that Schumacher retired when he did.
If Mercedes replace Schumacher with Hamilton, it will be an ignominious end to an ill-advised return to motorsport’s top-flight. He’ll probably be allowed to retire again, but it won’t fool anyone.
He deserves better.