Three-time Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart has urged his sure-to-be six-time counterpart Michael Schumacher to call it a day after next weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.

The Scot, still involved in the top flight via his association with Ford and the Jaguar team, believes that the German should bow out of the sport he has graced since 1991 before he sees his dominance completely overhauled by the new breed of 'young guns'.

Although Schumacher and Ferrari appear to have the beating of Juan Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso this year, Stewart - and many others - feel that the tide could turn in 2004, leaving Schumacher fighting for scraps rather than the championship, something JYS feels would be a sad way for the most successful man in F1 history to retire.

"He has to retire sometime," Stewart told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper, "There's nothing worse than a falling star. The new one soon arrives.

"Schumacher is currently the best, but he must understand that nobody is irreplaceable, and nobody is up on that pedestal for too long. For sure, he will be toppled like everyone else."

There has been much paddock speculation about the potential for Schumacher to retire at Suzuka, especially if he has wrapped up his sixth world title and moved himself ahead of the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio on the all-time winners list. Although both the German and Ferrari insist that he will return to defend the crown in 2004 - and potentially race on until the end of his recently-extended contract with the Scuderia in 2006 - many believe that this year could be his last.

The rumour mill is being fuelled by the suggestion that Sauber has yet to formally announce Felipe Massa alongside Giancarlo Fisichella for 2004, paving the way for him to replace Schumacher at Ferrari, while the Spanish press was yesterday full of speculation that Alonso is also being lined up to replace the German.

"I am not thinking about retiring yet," Schumacher said prior to his sixth win of the year at Indianapolis on the weekend, "I think it will be time to go when someone beats me in a very clear and undisputed way. It will happen one day, I'm sure, and, on that day, I will have to say 'it's over', but we have launched an incredible era for Ferrari and our goal now is to make that last for as long as possible."

Schumacher needs just one point to seal his sixth title at Suzuka, while Ferrari believes it needs 15 to out-score Williams and McLaren in the constructors' series and clinch another title double.

 

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