Schu to quit – report

UPDATE #10 (GMM) Following the lead of Germany's 'Bild' newspaper, the Italian sports media is now also reporting that Michael Schumacher has decided to retire from F1.

After it was confirmed that Kimi Raikkonen is definitely not a part of the Renault line-up for 2007, 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' wrote on Wednesday that the task to announce Schumacher's withdrawal after 15 years in the cockpit will fall on Jean Todt at Monza on Sunday.

At the same time, Ferrari is expected to confirm the 2007 lineup of Raikkonen alongside Felipe Massa.

''One cannot comment on everything that is written,'' said Schumacher's spokeswoman, Sabine Kehm.

''You will have to wait until Sunday.''

The 37-year-old German himself was in Venice on Wednesday, attending a PR event alongside Massa.

He continued to stick to a team agreement to keep quiet until Sunday, but was quoted by Gazzetta dello Sport as reflecting on his five titles and eleven seasons for the red team.

''I do not have colleagues (at Ferrari),'' he said, ''instead I have friends.

''After more than ten years I am nearly Italian and the experience has been beautiful.''

09/06/06 According to this German newspaper Bild-Zeitung article, Michael Schumacher will announce on Sunday that he is going to retire at the end of 2006.

''Schumi turns his back on formula one,'' the headline reads, adding that Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn is also likely to withdraw after the season.

'Bild' reported that Schumacher, the 37-year-old winner of seven world championships, is to announce the news in the post-race press conference, if he finishes in the top three.

Otherwise, a formal announcement to the world's press is scheduled for 6pm at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza.

''Before then we are saying nothing,'' Schumacher's manager, Willi Weber, told the 'paper.

08/27/06 (GMM) Michael Schumacher has rejected Bernie Ecclestone's assumption that he will hang up his racing helmet at the end of 2006.

Ecclestone, the F1 supremo, told 'Premiere' in an interview on Sunday that he believed the Ferrari driver has now 'probably decided' to call it a day after a fifteen year career.

He added that it must have been a very difficult decision, but in Istanbul Schumacher rejected Bernie's theory.

''(Bernie is) most certainly not (right),'' Michael insisted.

'He cannot know (my decision), because even I do not.''

The endless speculation will end at Monza, where Ferrari still plan to announce its full driver line-up for 2007.

08/27/06 In an interview with TV broadcaster 'Premiere', F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said he believes Michael Schumacher has finally decided to retire at the end of the 2006 season.

Ex-triple world champion Niki Lauda, meanwhile, told 'Kleinen Zeitung' that he thinks the chances that Ferrari's 37-year-old will sign a new contract are 'five per cent'.

''I know what I'm talking about,'' the Austrian veteran insisted.

08/10/06 (GMM) Michael Schumacher's father has chimed in on the 'will-he-won't-he' speculation by predicting that his Ferrari-driving son will not retire at the end of the current season.

60-year-old Rolf Schumacher told the 'Express' publication that Michael, who is due to reveal his future to the world at Monza next month, has genuinely 'not yet' decided whether or not to hang up his racing gloves.

''My feeling is that Michael will go on,'' Schumacher Senior – also Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher's father – said, ''but I cannot speak for him.

'It is his decision alone.''

Rolf's comments tie-in with the most recent whispers from Maranello, which suggest that Michael has indeed indicated that he will race in 2007.

But similarly reliable noises from the Ferrari camp in Italy also indicate that Kimi Raikkonen has now penned a contract to join the red team next year, presumably as a joint 'number one' alongside 37-year-old Schumacher.

''If Michael has stopped having fun, he will stop,'' Rolf Schumacher went on, ''and if he says 'I can still beat the boys', then I see him going on.''

Schumacher's Dad does, however, concede the genuine possibility that his ultra-successful son will no longer feature on the grand prix grids of 2007.

He admitted: ''If Michael says in Monza, 'I am stopping', then I am sure that will disappoint many people.

''But life goes on, and there is still another Schumacher in formula one …''

08/09/06 Our story on Monday suggesting that Michael Schumacher might retire did not get any official response from Ferrari but it did flush out a number of helpful remarks from people who are apparently in the know about what is happening at Maranello.

The word seems to be that Michael is not retiring and Jean Todt is not leaving the team, but that Michael will be partnered next year by Kimi Raikkonen, while Felipe Massa will become a very highly paid test driver for another year or two. At 25 Massa is still relatively young in F1 terms although seven of the 23 others drivers to have raced this year are younger (Fernando Alonso, Tonio Liuzzi, Sakon Yamamoto, Scott Speed, Christian Klien, Robert Kubica and Nico Rosberg). Schumacher seems to have accepted that he will have equal status with Raikkonen next year and so will be able to measure himself against the Finn before he retires.

The risk is that Michael will be beaten – unlikely given that the team has been built around him – but he seems willing to go down that path in order to show that he can beat the best of them in equal machinery.

08/05/06 (GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has responded to renewed paddock speculation that hints at retirement for the 37-year-old Ferrari pilot.

Willi Weber told 'Bild' newspaper that his German charge has 'not yet decided' what to do beyond the end of this year.

But, amid suggestions that Ross Brawn and Jean Todt might be headed for the scarlet door at Maranello, he added: ''Of course the composition of the team is important.

''And next year there will be some changes — I cannot say more.''

08/04/06 (GMM) On the eve of action in Budapest, Michael Schumacher was in no mood to comment on speculation that has been doing the rounds lately.

''I know it is your job to speculate,'' the Ferrari driver told reporters, ''but obviously it is my job not to get into all that.''

A raft of rumors have been doing the rounds; that Schumacher, 37, is finally going to retire; that Ross Brawn is taking a sabbatical; that Kimi Raikkonen has now signed a kosher five-year contract to steer a red car from 2007.

Interestingly, the German rejected one theory that all the gossip could be an attempt to destabilize Ferrari's run of recent form.

''Rumors,'' Schumacher explained, ''we all know them, we all live with them.''

He, therefore, refused point-blank to go into detail – for example – when asked if Brawn's possible retirement could be a sign of his own dwindling career. ''There are too many assumptions in that (rumor) that are not facts.

''I don't believe I have to comment.

''It might go one way, it might go another way.''

Kimi to Ferrari? ''That (rumor) is nothing new,'' Michael insisted.

Schumacher did, however, spare a moment to ruminate over championship rival – but his former Benetton chief – Flavio Briatore, who this week revealed a brush with cancer.

''We all fight one another hard in the races,'' he said of the 56-year-old Italian, ''but privately it is different.

''I am really pleased if everything is positive for him, because he does a good job for F1.''

08/03/06 (GMM) After denying reports that Michael Schumacher has decided to quit formula one, his manager Willi Weber says it is '50-50' that the 37-year-old German will race in 2007.

Weber, 63, has already publicized his personal 'advice' to Ferrari's Schumacher that he should call it a day if he lands his eighth title.

''Not many sportsmen choose the optimal time to end their careers,'' he is now quoted as saying by 'Deutsche Presse Agentur' ahead of the Hungarian grand prix.

''At the moment I estimate the probability at 50-50, but if he wants to go on then I have no doubt he could do it for five more years.''

It is likely that Schumacher's decision could be influenced by the movements of Kimi Raikkonen, who on Thursday was reported by Finnish newspaper 'Ilta Sanomat' as finally signing a five-year deal to drive for Ferrari.

The publication mentioned an annual fee of more than $38.5 million for the 26-year-old.

08/03/06 (GMM) Michael Schumacher's manager has denied press reports that predict an imminent end of the seven time world champion's formula one career.

Willi Weber, 63, referred to a story in 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' on Wednesday that said Germany's Schumacher had finally decided to call it a day after October's grand prix finale in Brazil.

''If you know Michael,'' the German told 'Sport-Information-Dienst', ''then you know that when he says Monza, he means Monza.''

The Ferrari team plans to announce its 2007 driver lineup at the Italian grand prix next month.

'La Gazzetta' said the retirement of Schumacher was linked to Ross Brawn's apparent decision to stop.

''Without Ross, Schumi does not want to go on,'' the press report read.

But Weber was also quoted as saying by 'Sport Bild' in Germany: ''Michael has not yet made his decision.''

Schumacher, meanwhile, led an F1 drivers' football team to victory in Budapest on Wednesday night, and hinted to 'dpa' agency: ''If this match is organized next year, I'll be back.''

08/02/06 (GMM) Genuine uncertainty about the future of Michael Schumacher's F1 career still exists, mere weeks before the Ferrari driver is finally due to make an announcement at Monza. Conflicting media reports are doing the rounds this week; magazine 'Autocar' says he is set to sign up and be Kimi Raikkonen's teammate next year, while 'La Gazzetta dello Sport' on Wednesday claimed that Schumacher will retire. Manager Willi Weber, however, told 'dpa' agency that Schumacher has not made up his mind.

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