“He cannot blame the age factor as to why he is being beaten and has not finished on the podium in any of the 23 races he has competed in since he came back. It is a case that the level required to win in F1 has gone up and he is not at that standard anymore. He did not return just to run in the middle order; his dream was to win again and make Mercedes race-winners, but it has not turned out that way and I would be surprised if he chose to continue.”
Another ex-F1 star who believes that the German legend has been left behind by the new generation who have raised the bar since he originally hung up his helmet back at the end of 2006 is David Coulthard, who indulged in many wheel-to-wheel duels out on-track with Schumacher during his own top flight career. Writing in his regular column for British newspaper The Daily Telegraph
, the Scot agrees that the 91-time grand prix-winner's best days are now almost certainly in the past.
“His drive in Turkey, where he finished a distant twelfth, was not one of his finest and not what we are used to associating with the Michael Schumacher name,” mused 'DC', after his erstwhile bitter rival conceded that 'the big joy is not there right now'. “It would have been far more surprising had he said afterwards that he was having a great time, so in one respect, I think we should commend his honesty.
“I know that Eddie Jordan, my co-pundit on the BBC
, compared Michael's situation to that of Muhammad Ali at the end of his boxing career – a once-proud warrior now out-of-fight and damaging his reputation. My view on this subject is clear – it is for Michael to decide when he wants to retire. His record of seven world titles and 91 race wins has earned him that right. We had our differences on and off the track, but I have always respected Michael as a driver.
“If he wants to see out his contract at Mercedes and stay until the end of next season, then he should. If he feels he can still be competitive, and he is still enjoying himself, then fair play to him. The trouble is, at the moment he is not enjoying himself and he does not look consistently competitive.
“I found his drive on Sunday awkward to watch at times. The collision with Petrov on the second lap, which left him fighting a rearguard action for the rest of the race, was by his own admission his fault. He spent the rest of the race in skirmishes with mid-ranking cars, often the attacked rather than the attacker. It is an unfamiliar position for him, which maybe explains why he looked like a fish-out-of-water. Nico Rosberg, by contrast, seems assured, in control. Like Sebastian Vettel, he has grown in confidence this year and matured. He looks like the Mercedes team leader now.
“While I will continue to defend his right to pick the timing of his own departure, and while there are moments, the odd session, when he looks as if he still has the old magic, the evidence in front of us suggests that Michael will not regain his former glories. He said at the start of the year that he had no excuses; he asked to be judged on his performances in his second season. After four races, it is not looking great.”
Schumacher's official spokeswoman Sabine Kehm, meanwhile, has countered such criticism, telling German publication Bild
: “They should know Michael better. The fact that he was disappointed after the race in Istanbul shows yet again that he is a fighter.”