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Pre-Spa analysis - Schumacher’s passion undiminished at 300 31 Aug 2012

Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 30 August 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 30 August 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Hungarian Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, 28 July 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 30 August 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 W03.
Formula One World Championship, Rd9, British Grand Prix, Practice, Silverstone, England, Friday, 6 July 2012 Michael Schumacher (GER) Mercedes AMG F1 in the Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd12, Belgian Grand Prix, Preparations, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Thursday, 30 August 2012

As he prepares to celebrate his 300th Grand Prix, at his beloved Spa, this weekend, Michael Schumacher admits that he is unlikely to make it 400.

“It’s certainly an interesting, beautiful, nice number to be around,” he said of 300. “A number that I didn’t think about, that I would do that, at the time that I retired at the end of 2006. And now here we are and I’m counting the 300 - because at one point it was the talk about whether there would be somebody able to beat Riccardo Patrese’s record of 250-whatever. I said ‘Forget that, it isn’t interesting for me’, and here we are. And suddenly… It isn’t anything that I’m challenging or looking for to have just a number on my board, but being the 300, yeah it’s a beautiful side-effect.”

But he laughed at mention of a poster near the circuit which said: ‘Michael, make it 400’.

“I guess I can say not. It’s obviously nice that the fans are still with me and encourage me to go on. This morning I had a beautiful welcome, becoming an honorary citizen of Spa, that is something very special to me. And that’s why the 300 becomes special - because it’s in Spa. It all happened to me here in Spa. First race, first victory, some beautiful victories and interesting races and in 2004 the seventh title, last year the 20th anniversary and now number 300 and being honoured. So it’s a full package. Spa has always meant a lot to me. I always called it my living room - now I can officially call it my living room. It’s good.

“But for the 400? We probably say no for that one!”

Interestingly, he singled out Suzuka rather than Spa when asked to identify his favourite race in the 300. “I keep talking about Suzuka in 2000, both for the quality of the race, for the end of the race and for the whole meaning of that result. So it was a total package of many circumstances, why that race turned out to be a very special one for myself and then for so many others.”

But the love for Spa is all too evident whenever he talks of the great Belgian track even though he admitted that he has never ventured round to the old layout’s great corners such as Burnenville, Malmedy, Stavelot and, of course, the infamous Masta Kink.

“There are many reasons, particularly for me because I started in the days when corners like Eau Rouge and Blanchimont were extremely challenging corners, because the cars were built in a certain way and the circuit made them absolutely on the edge. It's one of the old character tracks with lots of history. It is going through the natural countryside that we are in, the up and down like a rollercoaster so there are so many variants that make it so particular and so special. We all, as race drivers, prefer high speed and if you have a challenging high-speed corner it's special, and if you go through Eau Rouge... even nowadays it's probably a little bit too easy flat out except maybe in the race sometimes, but the sensation, the forces that go through you in a cornering sense and in a vertical sense, that is a combination that you don't find everywhere.”

In such conversations, Schumacher’s passion is always clear, lying just beneath the surface, and he believes it’s still the same as it was when he was just starting out on the F1 road.

“I have the same passion for what I am doing, yes, absolutely. Formula One is the ultimate racing and if you're involved, you're only involved because you want to do the best that you can do. Obviously we all depend on our machines, but nevertheless, within your machine you have a certain frame with which you can prove yourself and that's the challenge and that challenge you like to out-brake that frame and you like to do anything on top of that. That's the particular moment that you can have and the great thing in sport is that you have immediate feedback: whether you do achieve or you don't achieve. There's been plenty of satisfaction that I've had over more than 20 years now and I still enjoy it.

“I would probably think that my capacity to achieve is better, because I have a much better view and understanding, a lot more experience. If we have problems, it takes me less to come to the point with the team in explaining those problems and that's helpful.”

Nevertheless, Schumacher’s results with Mercedes haven’t met anyone’s expectations, and were he a 20 year-old he might be looking for alternative employment.

“First of all, you have those moments when things do run against you and I’ve mentioned that at any time I have full trust in the guys because they all do their utmost. Nobody wants to retire, everybody does their best job but then we have prototype cars and unfortunately things like this do happen. I don't mind too much about this, because I was aware, reasonably early in the season, that we wouldn't be fighting for the championship so to retire is not a big deal for me at that moment, not being in the championship anyway. Much more important is that if you would be in the championship, then it would obviously bother me much more. So, no, I look forward to the rest of the season. We still have a lot to go through and a lot to improve on, a lot to understand. The team is pushing hard to go forward in order to make our process a much more reasonable step forward compared to what we have been doing. Already we have achieved quite a bit more but I think it needs a bit more of that. And then reliability.”

Yesterday he confirmed that he won’t be taking any decision about his future until October at the earliest.

David Tremayne

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