German GP: Schumi's swan song?
NEAR MISS AT VALENCIA: You'd think, by the pose, that he won but Michael Schumacher (centre) was third at the 2012 Euro GP. Fernando Alonso (right) won, Kimi Raikkonen was third. Image: AFP
Author: TIM COLLLINGS
Michael Schumacher is hoping to give his fans something special at the 2012 German GP when he makes what may be his final appearance as an F1 drive on his home soil.
The 43-year-old believes he and the Mercedes team have this season demonstrated the potential to challenge at the front and he hinted this week that he hoped to deliver a podium finish.
A good result might also help both Schumacher and Mercedes sort out a contract extension to ensure he remains with the team beyond the expiry of his current deal at the end of this year.
PLENTY TO OFFER
Team boss Ross Brawn this week said he wanted to finalise Schumacher's future and hoped to have it sorted out by the end of F1's summer break in August.
Schumacher, who has made no definite comments about his future, was clear that whatever he decided to do he still felt he had plenty to offer both the team and a the Hockenheim crowd on July 22.
"This year is the first time that our Mercedes works team has been capable of racing right at the front and, because of that, we're hoping for lots of support from the fans and to reward them with our performance," Schumacher said.
"I hope we will see a lot of Mercedes colleagues in the stands - we want to do particularly well for them. We have set ourselves the clear target of giving everybody a reason to celebrate that weekend."
Schumacher's optimism is built on recent form that saw him finish third at the 2012 European GP in Valencia and start third on the grid at the 2012 British GP.
PERFORMANCE 'UP AND DOWN'
Brawn felt that the most important thing was to regain consistency after an ultimately disappointing performance at Silverstone – he finished seventh.
"Our performance has been up and down from the podium to lower points and we need to work hard to improve our level of consistency and ability to challenge at the front of the field," he said.
"I think Hockenheim's layout should be more suited to the car than the high-speed Silverstone layout and we are bringing some further improvements to the car which should help our performance.
"It would be very special to achieve a good result in Germany so we will be working hard to achieve just that."
Brawn added that he was not yet looking for a Schumacher replacement. It remained possible that he might retire - for the second time - as he would be 44 in January 2013. The team was focused on Schumacher’s evident good form and clear enjoyment of his racing which suggested he could be ready to consider another season.
“There is no deadline or critical point where he or we have said we must have a decision. It must be the right decision - it will be a mutual decision.”
If Schumacher does retire, Mercedes would probably be left with a choice of bidding for Lewis Hamilton or opting for a younger driver of potential such as Paul di Resta or his Force India team mate Nico Hulkenberg.