Schumacher could retire this year – Ecclestone

Fri, 13 January 2006, 03:05

(Reuters) – Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Friday he would not be surprised if Michael Schumacher retires this year.

“I wouldn’t be surprised,” Ecclestone told reporters at the Autosport International show. “He’s done very well, hasn’t he, and probably gets a bit tired of chasing around the world.”

Ecclestone said he had not talked to the seven times world champion, the most successful driver in grand prix history with 84 wins from 231 starts.

Schumacher, 37, is in the last year of his Ferrari contract and has yet to decide on his future which has become a major talking point in the sport.

Ecclestone, 75, appeared at the show to deliver a lecture to marshals about motor sport safety on behalf of F1’s former chief medical officer Sid Watkins, although it turned out to be more of a staccato question-and-answer session,.

Asked why he would want to continue at the helm of Formula One, with manufacturers’ threatening their own series and wrangling over control of the commercial rights, the billionaire businessman replied: “I’ve got nothing else to do, to be honest with you.”

Ecclestone said he had no idea who would eventually fill his shoes, suggesting “a good used car dealer” would be the ideal candidate.

He was adamant that there would be no rival series, dismissed talk of competition from either the new A1 Grand Prix series or the GP Masters and took another pot shot at Silverstone, home of the British Grand Prix.

“If they don’t rebuild it and put it in line with other third world circuits, there won’t be a Silverstone,” he said.

Ecclestone ruled out a grand prix in London before or around the time of the 2012 Olympics.

Asked which was his favourite circuit in the world, Ecclestone drew laughter with the quickfire reply: “Silverstone, without any doubt.”

The Briton confirmed that a deal was close to save the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps, one of the sport’s great venues, after last year’s promoter hit financial difficulties.

“We’ll get it sorted out,” he said. “They want us to (take on the promotion). I’m not happy about it but we need to keep Spa alive, don’t we?”

Formula One will have 19 races this year and Ecclestone said that was too many with 17 or 18 the ideal number.”We could trim one off,” he said.

With Japan’s Super Aguri set to be Formula One’s 11th team this season, once the governing body has received a $48 million bond, Ecclestone said 12 was the limit.

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