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Latest F1 news in brief - Thursday
  • Schumacher retired one year too soon
    Schumacher surprised by top Mercedes form
  • Lotus ready to wait for Raikkonen's call - Boullier
  • FIA to keep control of F1's print media
  • Ferrari to decide on 2015 Le Mans prototype
  • Niki Lauda  "Another 10 seconds in there and I would have been dead."

Schumacher surprised by top Mercedes form
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher has admitted he did not expect his former team Mercedes to make such a leap forwards in 2013.

After his F1 comeback with Mercedes between 2010 and 2012, Schumacher returned to retirement this year and was replaced by Lewis Hamilton.

In the great German's wake, Hamilton won from pole last time out in Hungary, while Schumacher's former teammate Nico Rosberg has won twice in 2013 so far.

"Given where we finished last season," seven time world champion Schumacher told Eurosport, "it's a surprise where they are now.

"I'm happy for them, but I could not have seen that coming."

If that sounded like regret after three years of fallow results, 44-year-old Schumacher insisted he is "honestly" happy to have returned to retirement.

"You can't forget that this sport is not just 20 races," said the former Ferrari driver, whose seven titles and 91 wins are all-time F1 records.

"In those three years, so much energy is consumed that I would not have been able to continue at the level at which I want to measure myself," said Schumacher.

If watching merely on television has been enjoyable for the famous German this year, it is probably because Rosberg's top form has made people reassess Schumacher's Mercedes career.

"People probably understand a little better how good Rosberg is," he said.

Even so, he insists he doesn't regret not being at the wheel of the winning W04.

"It would not have been enough for me to win a few races," said Schumacher.  "The goal is to fight for the world championship -- that was my target."

Lotus ready to wait for Raikkonen's call - Boullier
(GMM)  Eric Boullier has admitted Lotus is waiting for Kimi Raikkonen to make his decision about 2014.

Earlier, it was reported Lotus is putting pressure on the Finn to come to a quick decision about whether to stay beyond this season, or switch to another team like Red Bull.

The reports had suggested boss Boullier wanted him to decide by the start of August.

But the Frenchman has told Russia's Championat: "That's not exactly what I said.  I said that the decision may come by August, but that it was not my decision."

If Lotus does lose Raikkonen, it would actually be good news for his current teammate Romain Grosjean, whose form is notoriously up and down.

Boullier said: "It's true that a completely new driver lineup is not good.  But the best option is to keep Kimi and Romain.

"Generally, it is always important to keep at least one driver -- regardless of whether the regulations are changing so much or not.

"At least one," he insisted.

Boullier also commented on the fate of Lotus' reserve driver, the reigning GP2 champion Davide Valsecchi.

He said: "If our team has no place for him, I think he has shown a good level to have a chance with another team.

"He has demonstrated his potential, he is fast and he deserves a chance in formula one."

FIA to keep control of F1's print media
(GMM)  The FIA is staying in control of the accreditation of F1's print journalists.

Before Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt shook hands at the Hungaroring last weekend, it was reported control of journalists had been a sticking point as they worked towards a new Concorde Agreement deal.

We reported that, prior to their signing the memorandum of understanding, Ecclestone 'has been holding out on releasing more revenue to the FIA, in exchange for more control over the accreditation of print journalists'.

But Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports that, despite fears Ecclestone might get the control he wants, the FIA is in fact staying in charge.

Correspondent Michael Schmidt referred to the rumors Ecclestone wanted to put print journalists "on a short leash" after some teams and suppliers "complained about critical articles".

But the new Concorde deal "guarantees free press coverage", Schmidt added.

Ferrari to decide on 2015 Le Mans prototype
(GMM)  Ferrari will decide soon whether it will push ahead with a Le Mans project.

A month ago, boss Stefano Domenicali did not deny speculation the Maranello based team might design a prototype for the fabled sports car scene.

"The new turbo engine for introduction in formula one next year would allow some interesting projects," he had said.

"At the moment I cannot say more," Domenicali told Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Germany's Auto Motor und Sport claims Ferrari will make its decision about whether to push ahead with a LMP1 design for the 2015 Le Mans race later this year.

Correspondent Michael Schmidt said the Italian marque is "seriously considering" the option, despite not winning Le Mans since 1965.

Niki Lauda  "Another 10 seconds in there and I would have been dead."
Niki Lauda is lucky to be alive. It was 37 years ago on August 1 that he was trapped in a fiery hell. And it was a miracle that he survived.

As the Ferrari driver steamed into the fast left Bergwerk kink on the 73-corner Nordschleife Ring on lap two of the German Grand Prix, his world was about to be turned upside down.

The 27-year-old Austrian was reigning F1 champion and was comfortably cruising towards his second consecutive title. With just seven races left, he had almost double the points of his closest rival.

The German circuit, however, was unlike any other. Narrow and bumpy, it had limited run-off areas and several sections inaccessible to fire marshals. It was by far the most dangerous on the calendar. Many were already saying that the speed of modern F1 had outgrown it.

After the 131st fatality in 49 years was recorded at the track two weeks before the race, Lauda called for a boycott. It fell on deaf ears. The race went ahead.

Lauda started second, but on a damp but drying track he dropped to 10th and was trying to recover after pitting for slick tires at the end of lap one. His title rival, James Hunt, was running third and he needed to claw his way back.

Then something went very wrong.

At a speed of around 120mph Lauda's Ferrari snapped right – some reports claim suspension failure. It was pitched into an embankment, rebounded and spun back onto the track.

The wreck was hit by the Surtees of Brett Lunger and, with the fuel tank ruptured, it burst into flames. Lauda was trapped. And Harald Ertl, steaming into the crash site at 90mph, had nowhere to go.

"I saw yellow flags and braked hard," Ertl told a German magazine. "I saw the whole mess in front of me – the burning Ferrari, the Surtees and the rest of the track covered with debris. Niki’s Ferrari slid across the road and I hit it."

Ertl’s car went into a spin and Lauda’s Ferrari hit the Surtees a second time. When it all came to a halt, Ertl raced out and ran as fast as he could to the burning wreckage.

"Niki sat there with his head bent forward and did not try to free himself - and I had to take a second look to believe it, but he was not wearing a helmet any more," recalled Ertl, who joined Lunger and fellow drivers Guy Edwards and Arturo Merzario, who had both stopped at the scene, in a frantic rescue effort.

Lauda was sitting in the middle of the fire, conscious but unable to do anything to save himself.

With the rescue vehicle on its way, Ertl and a marshal tried to put the fire out but their small extinguisher did little with fuel still spewing out. They could only keep the fire under a level of control while the others tried to release Lauda from the wreckage.

"I would guess it would be about a minute before we managed to get the belts undone," Guy Edwards told the BBC at the time. "Lauda was conscious most of the time and was saying 'get me out'..."

Several times, Lunger and Merzario tried to climb onto the burning car to get Lauda out, but it was not until the Porsche Carrera rescue car arrived that the fire was extinguished and Merzario pulled Lauda from the wreckage.

"If you consider the time he sat in the burning car, which was about 45 seconds, he didn’t look that bad," recalled Ertl.

But the burns were severe.

Lauda’s helmet had slid off in the accident and he had inhaled hot toxic gases that damaged his lungs and blood. He face was bloodied and all the hair on the right side of his head had gone. Part of one ear was burnt off, as were his eyebrows and his eyelids, and he had severely damaged his tear duct.

He lapsed into a coma.

That night, at the hospital in Mannheim, he was read the last rights – but he fought for his life for several days, and somehow came to.

Determined to make a quick comeback and try to hold onto his title, he limited surgery to just replacing his eyelids and he was back six weeks later, in time for Ferrari’s home race at Monza.

His amazing gamble to return so quickly almost paid off. Hunt ended up winning in Germany and then won three of the next four races as well, but Lauda was still in the driving seat and three points clear going into the season finale in Japan.

But it was not to be: heavy rain made the track Fuji almost undriveable, and this time Lauda, who had qualified third, was taking no chances. He declared that "my life is worth more than a title" and was one of several drivers to withdraw before the race began. Hunt drove and finished third to win his only F1 driver's crown by a single point.

As for his call for a boycott of the Nordschleife? It turned out the crash made people listen. F1 has never been back. Will Gray - Yahoo! Eurosport UK

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