In Canada, the German's car would not start on the grid formation lap and he started from the back before brake problems and then a broken driveshaft halted him. In France a fortnight ago, engine failure stymied him even before the race started. And at Silverstone, his race lasted two laps before another tell-tale plume of smoke polluted its rear end and the atmosphere in the garage.
Ferrari's French problems were traced to faulty pistons, but although yesterday's exit similarly appeared to be engine related, it was actually down to transmission faults.
"It's something different each time," John Barnard, the team's technical director, said. "Mich-ael's gearbox had a hydraulic leak, and Eddie's ran a bearing." Schumacher's face was straighter than ever as he kept a tight rein on his disappointment.
"We did a race-distance testing at Imola recently, and again at Monza. We ran reliably on Friday and Saturday. And then we do three laps today. There is just no logic to it at all," he said.
Back in 1973, Ferrari's dismal performance in the British GP prompted them to withdraw, and under the guidance of Luca di Montezemolo they regrouped and came back in 1974 with new cars and Niki Lauda spearheading the team. A year later, the Austrian was world champion. Today, di Montezemolo is Ferrari president, but there are financial penalties to discourage non- participation, a luxury that Ferrari could not possibly consider.
There are new parts galore in the pipeline for Schumacher to try over the remainder of the season, but one team insider remained pessimistic. "We test a lot, but we don't do it the right way. It's too disjointed. There are many new parts to try, but we don't make enough of them. So those we have become unreliable. Our problem is that we just don't seem to have learned how to operate like the British teams such as Williams do. Now, I think, comes big shit."
The team's mood, already low despite the temporary euphoria of Schumacher's Spanish victory, has reached its nadir. Arguments over technical legality soured the third anniversary of Jean Todt's appointment as sporting director, and despite the clear progress he has initiated, the Italian media has been screaming for his head. After Silverstone, the calls will surely be renewed, even though Schumacher has made it clear he has complete faith in Todt's ability.
"If we win one more race this year, I will be satisfied," Todt said recently. On present form that may seem unlikely, but the one certainty in a maelstrom of political infighting is that, without him, Ferrari would be denied even the diminishing hope to which it clings so desperately.Reuse content