LONDON: Michael Schumacher hopes that he can give his fans something special to celebrate in next weekend’s German Grand Prix when he makes what may be his final appearance as an F1 racer on home soil.
The seven-time champion believes he and his Mercedes team have this season demonstrated the potential to challenge at the front and he hinted this week that he hopes to deliver a podium finish.
A good result might help both Schumacher and Mercedes sort out a contract extension to ensure he remains with the team beyond the expiry of his current deal at the end of this year.
Team boss Ross Brawn this week said he wanted to finalize Schumacher’s future and hoped to have it sorted out by the end of F1’s summer break in August.
Schumacher, who has made no comments about his future plans, was clear that whatever he decides to do, he feels he has plenty to offer both the team and a packed Hockenheim next weekend.
“This year is the first time that our Mercedes works team has been capable of racing right at the front and, because of that, we’re hoping for lots of support from the fans and to reward them with our performance,” Schumacher said.
“Hopefully we will see a lot of Mercedes colleagues in the grandstands and we want to do particularly well for them. We have set ourselves the clear target of giving everybody a reason to celebrate next weekend.”
Schumacher’s optimism is built on his resurgent recent form that saw him finish on the podium in third place at the European Grand Prix at Valencia and claim a grid spot of third last weekend for the British Grand Prix.
Brawn said he felt the most important thing for Mercedes is to regain consistency after an ultimately disappointing performance at Silverstone.
“Our performance has been up and down recently, ranging from podiums to lower points finishes, and we need to work hard to improve our level of consistency and ability to challenge at the front of the field,” he said.
“I think Hockenheim’s layout should be more suited to the car than the high-speed Silverstone layout and we are bringing some further improvements to the car which should help our performance,” he said.
“It would be very special to achieve a good result in Germany so we will be working hard to achieve just that.”
Brawn added that he is not looking at his options for a replacement for Schumacher yet because he wants to deal with the German’s situation first.
It remains possible that Schumacher may decide to retire – for the second time – as he will be 44 next January.
Brawn denied that Australian Mark Webber’s decision this week to stay at Red Bull had any affect on his thinking for 2013 and beyond.
Many observers believe that Webber’s decision had left Brawn and Mercedes in a strong position to approach Lewis Hamilton who is out of contract with McLaren after this year.
“We are focused on Michael for as long as it takes – and for whatever it takes,” explained Brawn. “Then we will see where we are elsewhere.”
He added that Schumacher’s evident good form and clear enjoyment of his racing this year suggested he would be ready to consider another season.
“We haven’t discussed it, but he enjoys himself and, if he enjoys himself, why not?” Brawn said.
“Inevitably you come to a point where you have to say – let’s have the discussions because these things can sometimes take some time and you have to have the discussion and you have to reach a conclusion in order to plan for the future.
“But there is no deadline or critical point where he or we have said that we must have a decision by then. It must be the right decision – that is the most important thing.
“It will be a mutual decision. I think when the time is appropriate we will sit down and we will go through all the considerations and come to a conclusion. I think knowing Michael as I do, it will be a logical and sensible conclusion, driven by passion of course because he enjoys what he does.”
If Schumacher chooses to retire, Mercedes would probably be left with a choice from making a big bid to sign Hamilton or opting for a younger driver of potential like Paul di Resta or his Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg.