Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher is under heavy fire for a series of poor performances which have left him 12th in the drivers’ rankings and his Mercedes team openly talking about ditching him for British driver Lewis Hamilton.
He has failed to finish in seven out of the 14 races so far this season, and on Sunday drove into the back of Jean-Éric Vergne during the Singapore Grand Prix, leaving both cars in pieces and both drivers out of the race.
Because this followed him hitting Bruno Senna in Barcelona a month ago, Schumacher will be penalised in the Japanese Grand Prix in a fortnight by having to start 10 places behind his qualifying spot.
The Frankfurter Rundschau reported that Norbert Haug, Mercedes team chief, had already said they were thinking about alternatives for the new season – and that Schumacher was delaying a decision about whether to extend his contract beyond the end of the season.
That move would seem to have been taken out of his hands, the paper suggested, and said negotiations with Hamilton had already started – the British driver is in talks with his team McLaren for a new contract.
This could explain Schumacher’s performance on and off the track on Sunday, the paper suggested – not only did he crash out of the race, he was also in the toilet during a minute of silence in memory of Formula 1 doctor Sid Watkins.
Some speculated Schumacher had experienced a momentary blackout just before the crash in Singapore, while others questioned his eyesight.
Die Welt newspaper noted that he spoke of Jean-Marc rather than Jean-Èric during a press conference after the race, while claiming he had not braked too late – rather he had braked earlier than normal and that his later actions had been a little delayed.