Column: No has-been, Schumacher needs another year

Associated Press  |  Last updated September 24, 2012
(Eds: With AP Photos.) By JOHN LEICESTER AP Sports Columnist Watch out behind, here comes Michael Schumacher! Oops. Too late. Crash. Ramming into the back of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, totaling both their cars at the Singapore Grand Prix, handed ammunition to critics who say a 43-year-old clearly not as razor-sharp as he once was has no business racing in Formula One against drivers far younger and quicker. The incredulous race engineer who asked, ''What happened there? What happened there?'' over the radio of Schumacher's crumpled Mercedes expressed what television viewers around the world must also have been thinking. Cue the jokes about the middle-aged racer who could no longer find his brake pedal and who perhaps needs eyeglasses. Failing for the seventh time in 14 races this year to reach the finish line surely was not what the seven-time world champion had in mind when he came out of retirement in 2010. Still, none of this should mean that Schumacher's F1 career must end soon. His three-year Mercedes contract is almost up. Any day now - he has said by October - should come news of whether he'll renew it or retire again at the end of the season, going back to getting his adrenaline kicks from skydiving and crashing motorcycles. Here's hoping Schumacher gives F1 at least one more year - if nothing else so that the serial winner he once was doesn't finish on a low note. In the three years that he and Schumacher have raced together at Mercedes, Nico Rosberg has unquestionably been the better driver. In 52 races, he has accumulated far more points - 324 to Schumacher's 191 - and had five podium finishes, including Mercedes' only win, at the Chinese Grand Prix in April. In short, the German, 16 years younger than Schumacher, has been better in eking performance out of the Mercedes cars that have never been quick enough to challenge Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari for the driver's championship. But Schumacher has had some rotten luck, too, failing to finish nearly one-quarter of his races for Mercedes. Some of those were his fault; it was in Singapore on Sunday. Schumacher's tires lost some grip when the safety car was called out. When the race restarted, that loss of grip meant he couldn't slow down as smartly as he expected when Vergne braked in front of him at turn 14, so he thumped into the back of his Toro Rosso. Race organizers said Schumacher accepted the blame. He'll start the next race, in Suzuka, Japan, on Oct. 7, 10 grid places back from his qualifying position as a penalty. In May, Schumacher rammed into the Williams of Bruno Senna at the Spanish Grand Prix, too. But for many of the 12 other times he didn't get his Mercedes to the checkered flag, Schumacher has been only partly responsible or blameless. In Australia in 2011, for instance, Jaime Alguersuari knocked into and punctured his right rear tire. Schumacher had started that race 11th on the grid. Driving a car often too slow to qualify him toward the front of the pack and keep him out of trouble has at times left Schumacher vulnerable to collisions. Vitaly Petrov slammed his Renault into Schumacher's Mercedes early in the Korean Grand Prix in 2011, too. In 2012, a gearbox issue (Australia), a loose front wheel (China), a fuel pressure problem (Monaco), a hydraulic failure on his rear wing (Canada) and a puncture (Hungary) have prevented Schumacher from finishing. Rosberg, in comparison, has finished every race in 2012 and all but four of the past 52. So a good reason for Schumacher to continue racing next year would be that his luck and, hopefully, the reliability of his Mercedes can only improve. Rosberg has 93 points in 2012, to Schumacher's 43 - an unfavorable-looking comparison for the elder statesman. But a closer analysis of their numbers suggests they aren't, in fact, that far apart, judging from the seven races Schumacher actually finished. In six of them, Schumacher placed higher than Rosberg. On average, Rosberg is scoring 6.6 points per race in 2012, only slightly better than Schumacher's 6.1 average in the seven races he finished. In three of those races, Schumacher started from a grid position outside the top 10 but still drove well enough to secure points at the end. Rosberg has done that just twice in 14 races this season - climbing to 10th, good for one point, from 21st on the grid in Germany and from 13th in Hungary. And in eight of the 14 races, Schumacher also qualified faster than Rosberg. In short, Schumacher isn't the dominant driver he was when he was winning championships with Ferrari but nor is he a middle-aged embarrassment or a has-been. His seven world titles are his forever. Another year of racing, even if it doesn't amount to much, cannot alter that fact and cannot tarnish the memory of the champion he once was. --- John Leicester is an international sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jleicester(at) or follow him at
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Lawyer who reps concussion lawsuit wants to speak with Bettman

Former NFL LB Armstrong, wife reportedly killed by 16-year-old son

Tyler Eifert says he will never play in the Pro Bowl again

Australian athletes evacuate the Olympic village after fire

Russian weightlifting team banned from Rio


Wade says Riley did not push him out of Miami

Nationals among multiple teams inquiring on Mark Melancon

McClain does not show up for Cowboys’ training camp

Andre Johnson agrees to two-year deal with Titans

Redskins GM injures hand punching wall in frustration

Report: Aldon Smith checks into rehab

Storyline from 'Ballers' plays out in Cowboys preseason camp

Texas A&M creates a very sexist version of their fight song for women

Brown, Marshall are apparently serious about their car bet

Lacy, Starks could split carries to start season

Cyborg Santos post-surgery skull photos are eerie

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Hockey team unveils Clinton, Trump bobbleheads

Bennett compares chemistry with Pats QBs to his love life

Crowell still making amends for controversial Instagram post

Report: LeBron urged Justin Bieber not to perform at RNC

Luck refutes Matt Hasselbeck’s assertion he never showers

Newspaper editor explains use of Jordan meme for MJ article

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Dr. Phil calls out the Patriots for their cheating ways

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker