Michael Schumacher has repeated the line that he is not considering leaving Ferrari, despite having apparently met with Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug on more than occasion in recent weeks.

The two Germans have not denied the meetings, but insist that they talked about little more than the state of Formula One in general, and what could be done to improve the spectacle. German tabloids picked up on the rumours at the weekend, suggesting that Mercedes may be about to tempt its former prot?g? back into the fold. Schumacher leapt into the international motorsport arena as part of the Three-Pointed Star's sportscar squad prior to his F1 debut with Jordan in 1991, but has been a Ferrari man since joining the Scuderia in 1996.

"I do not even want to comment on the rumour that I may be leaving Ferrari,"
Schumacher said, "Everyone knows that I am closely tied to this team."

Speculation about a possible switch went hand-in-hand with another poor performance from the Scuderia in Turkey, where both F2005s appeared short of grip on a green track. Schumacher's race began from the back of the grid after a spin in qualifying, and eventually ended after a clash with Williams' Mark Webber. Rubens Barrichello - already on his way out of Maranello at the end of the year - struggled to break into the top ten.

"It's sad but true," the German admitted, "At no time over the weekend were we competitive - not in qualifying, during the race nor even during free practice. Unfortunately, we could not continue the form we had shown at Hockenheim or Budapest. We have, instead, taken a step back."

Despite his car requiring attention following the clash with Webber, Schumacher insisted on rejoining the race in an effort to limit the damage to his qualifying slot for Ferrari's home event, at Monza, next weekend.

"We obviously wanted to do all we could to improve our position," the German explained, "It was down to the fine work of the team in substituting the parts damaged in the clash with Mark Webber. This is typical of the guys'
skill and it was down to them that I was able to go back out and run more laps than those drivers who had retired. In truth, that was the best thing that happened all weekend!

"I think that it is obvious that, in a situation like that, you try all you can. For us, Monza is very important and, even though we are not as good as we were in the past, we want to do the best we can for our fans. We owe it to them - and to ourselves."



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