Grapevine: Fans: Schumacher Not Finished

The legions of Michael Schumacher fans who over-run the small village of Hockenheim with Ferrari flags and red shirts could be watching his final German Grand Prix as reigning champion on Sunday

Grapevine: Fans: Schumacher Not Finished

With Schumacher's record-breaking string of five consecutive Formula One World Championships about to be broken this year, he has already conceded that his chances of a fourth career win here in front of home fans are remote and his hopes are for third place.

The masses of loyal Schumacher supporters, however, are confident they are not witnessing the twilight of his career.

They are certain Sunday's race will not be his last German Grand Prix as defending champion and doubt that the 36-year-old with seven titles in 14 years will quit before reclaiming his crown.

"He's too ambitious to give up now," said Volker Krause, 49, a butcher from Leipzig wearing bright red Ferrari colours like some three-quarters of the enormous crowd watching Saturday's practice and qualifying sessions.

"Schumacher has too much fire in his blood to quit," Krause added. "He doesn't need the money, but he's too competitive to retire when he's not on top. I'm sure he'll be around for years to come. He'll be the defending champion here again in 2007."

About 110,000 spectators are expected for Sunday's Grand Prix, packing into the sleepy village of 20,483 that lies south of Frankfurt.

A year ago, Schumacher claimed his 11th victory in 12 races at Hockenheim and ended up taking first place 13 times. This year, he has won just one race and is 34 points behind the Championship leader Fernando Alonso with eight races left.

"I don't think he has much of a chance," said Johann Giederer, a Munich house painter who like hordes of Schumacher fans camped in tents outside the track. "But he won't quit when he's losing. It's not his fault. It's the tyres."

Best Driver

Thomas Paar, a technician from Nuremberg, said he believed Schumacher's many difficulties this year would likely prolong his career beyond 2006, when his current contract runs out.

"It's Ferrari's fault - they should provide him with a better car," said Paar, 35. "It's not just the tyres. He's by far the best driver and I'm sure he'll stay long enough to come back to Hockenheim as defending champion again. He's only 36."

Spain's Alonso may be leading the Championship but at the main Renault merchandise outlet four bored sales clerks with no customers watched quietly as thousands of red-capped Schumacher fans in Ferrari shirts streamed past into the arena.

Business was brisk, by contrast, at the Ferrari outlet where shirts cost 85 euros ($103) and red jackets are 170 euros.

"Anything with the little horse on it is magic," said outlet manager Frenchy Romain, referring to the Ferrari logo. He expects to sell more than 1,000 Ferrari shirts during the race weekend.

"Sales are still very good even if they are down slightly this year. Wed' be doing better if Schumacher were winning. But the economic situation in Germany is tough now too. People don't have as much money as they did two or three years ago."

But Irena Fenna, 36, said she sensed the Schumacher era was coming to an end and predicted the popularity of Formula One in Germany would fade when he quit - just as Germans' interest in tennis waned after Boris Becker and Steffi Graf retired.

"It's all over for Schumacher," said Fenna, an office clerk from Zurich. "His days are numbered. I don't think he has enough zeal to become a winner again. He's over the hill."

shares
comments
Raikkonen Fastest in Practice 4 - Germany
Previous article

Raikkonen Fastest in Practice 4 - Germany

Next article

Raikkonen on Pole as Montoya Spins

Raikkonen on Pole as Montoya Spins
Load comments
How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations Plus

How F1 teams and personnel react in pressurised situations

OPINION: The pressure is firmly on Red Bull and Mercedes as Formula 1 2021 embarks on its final double-header. How the respective teams deal with that will be a crucial factor in deciding the outcome of the drivers' and constructors' championships, as Autosport's technical consultant and ex-McLaren F1 engineer explains

Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated Plus

Why Ferrari is sure its long-term Leclerc investment will be vindicated

Humble yet blisteringly quick, Charles Leclerc is the driver Ferrari sees as its next
 world champion, and a rightful heir to the greats of Ferrari’s past – even though, by the team’s own admission, he’s not the finished article yet. Here's why it is confident that the 24-year-old can be the man to end a drought stretching back to 2008

Formula 1
Nov 30, 2021
The downside to F1's show and tell proposal Plus

The downside to F1's show and tell proposal

Technology lies at the heart of the F1 story and it fascinates fans, which is why the commercial rights holder plans to compel teams to show more of their ‘secrets’. STUART CODLING fears this will encourage techno-quackery…

Formula 1
Nov 29, 2021
How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits Plus

How getting sacked gave Mercedes F1’s tech wizard lasting benefits

He’s had a hand in world championship-winning Formula 1 cars for Benetton, Renault and Mercedes, and was also a cog in the Schumacher-Ferrari axis. Having recently ‘moved upstairs’ as Mercedes chief technical officer, James Allison tells STUART CODLING about his career path and why being axed by Benetton was one of the best things that ever happened to him

Formula 1
Nov 28, 2021
The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback Plus

The remarkable qualities that propelled Kubica’s F1 comeback

It’s easy to look at
 Robert Kubica’s second Formula 1 career and feel a sense of sadness that he didn’t reach the heights for which he seemed destined. But as BEN ANDERSON discovered, performance and results are almost meaningless in this context – something more fundamental and incredible happened…

Formula 1
Nov 27, 2021
The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver the goods for McLaren  Plus

The humbling changes Ricciardo made to deliver the goods for McLaren 

From being lapped by his own team-mate in Monaco to winning at Monza, it’s been a tumultuous first season at McLaren for Daniel Ricciardo. But, as he tells STUART CODLING, there’s more to the story of his turnaround than having a lovely summer holiday during Formula 1's summer break...

Formula 1
Nov 26, 2021
The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title Plus

The potential benefits of losing the F1 constructors' title

As the battle continues to rage over the F1 2021 drivers' championship, teams up and down the grid are turning their attentions to the prize money attributed to each position in the constructors' standings. But F1's sliding scale rules governing windtunnel and CFD use will soften the blow for those who miss out on the top places

Formula 1
Nov 25, 2021
The invisible enemy that’s made Hamilton’s title charge tougher Plus

The invisible enemy that’s made Hamilton’s title charge tougher

After winning his past few Formula 1 titles at a canter, Lewis Hamilton currently trails Max Verstappen by eight points heading into the final double-header of 2021. Although Red Bull has been his biggest on-track challenge, Hamilton feels that he has just as much to grapple with away from the circuit

Formula 1
Nov 24, 2021