Motor racing: Schumacher in line for pounds 52m

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FERRARI are ready to pay Michael Schumacher an extra pounds 52m to see out his grand prix career with them.

Fiat, who own Ferrari, want to stop Schumacher joining McLaren-Mercedes next season, according to the German newspaper Bild. Schumacher is being paid pounds 17.5m a year under a contract with Ferrari that runs until the end of next season.

The paper says the head of Fiat, Gianni Agnelli, has personally approved a new contract that would keep Schumacher at Ferrari for another three years followed by a lifetime job as the company's roving ambassador.

Willi Weber, Schumacher's manager, said: "I prefer not to say anything, just this: there have been no negotiations so far." A mere pounds 52m is not such a bad point to start talking.

Quite how much money was riding on the finish of the Australian Grand Prix last weekend is not clear, but every pound of it will have felt just as significant to any punter hoping to collect his share on David Coulthard. The sight of the Scot pulling over to allow Mika Hakkinen to pass with the chequered flag beckoning would have been far more galling than any of the more familiar last-gasp catastrophes that befall gamblers.

A spokeswoman for the pair's McLaren team, describing the clumsy climax to the race as a "freak occurrence", said yesterday the agreement to allow the first of them to reach the first bend to finish first was meant to cover the forthcoming Brazilian Grand Prix - but McLaren are having a re-think.

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