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Herbert expects Schumacher to retire
Michael Schumacher's former team-mate Johnny Herbert says it would be no surprise to see the seven-time world champion retire at the end of the season.
Schumacher has endured a difficult return to Formula One since coming out of retirement at the start of last season, and has yet to finish on the podium. After a poor race in Turkey where Schumacher admitted "the big joy is not there right now", Herbert -who was his team-mate at Benetton in 1994 and 1995 - said he would not be surprised if he did not see out the final year of his contract with Mercedes in 2012.
"I would not be surprised if my old team-mate Michael Schumacher retires for good at the end of the season," Herbert wrote in his column for The National. "Schumacher did not return to Formula One just to make up the numbers. He came back to win races and add titles to his already impressive career statistics. It has not happened, and the simple fact is that he is no longer the best driver on the track.
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."
Herbert said that the poor results were not necessarily a sign of Schumacher's age or ability, but more that the standard of drivers coming in to Formula One is higher than ever before.
"Schumacher has not lost any of his skill; the new generation of young drivers are just better than him. I do not think he is any slower than he was when he was winning seven world titles; he is just struggling to cope with a situation he is not used to. Schumacher is competing against a new breed of grand prix drivers. The standard is very high and you have more and more talented people coming through."
Herbert also added that Schumacher's previous robust driving style no longer has the effect it used to, and was proving costly.
"He blamed himself for his early collision with Vitaly Petrov that ruined his race on Sunday, and I have to agree with him. It was rather a schoolboy mistake. In the past, Schumacher was able to be very forceful in races and his sheer presence would almost force cars to pull aside or back out of situations, but this is no longer happening and you are seeing this with the number of incidents he has been involved in."
On the back of further speculation about his future, Schumacher's agent Sabine Kehm, however, said his post-Turkey comments were a sign of his determination to improve.
"The guys should all know Michael better than that," Kehm told Bild. "He shows again and again that he is a fighter. The fact that he is disappointed after a race like Istanbul doesn't disprove the hunger that he has, in fact it reinforces it."