Schumacher on verge of quitting after tragedy

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The Independent Online

Michael Schumacher has revealed he contemplated retiring from Formula One after the death of a fire marshal during the Italian Grand Prix nine days ago. Paolo Ghislimberti was killed after being hit by flying debris, believed to be the wheel of Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Jordan, following a five-car collision at Monza's second chicane on the opening lap.

Michael Schumacher has revealed he contemplated retiring from Formula One after the death of a fire marshal during the Italian Grand Prix nine days ago. Paolo Ghislimberti was killed after being hit by flying debris, believed to be the wheel of Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Jordan, following a five-car collision at Monza's second chicane on the opening lap.

Schumacher went on to win the race, which proved an emotional affair for the 31-year-old as he was reduced to tears in the post-race media conference, although he was not aware of what had happened to Ghislimberti at the time. It was the German's 41st victory of his career - equalling the mark of the late Ayrton Senna - although one which was later tempered when the marshal's death became public knowledge.

For Schumacher, it proved a low point, as did the death of Senna in the San Marino Grand Prix six years ago, and not for the first time Schumacher considered retiring. "I really thought about quitting but I think you always do in extreme moments," he confirmed. "I thought about quitting after the death of Ayrton Senna and I thought about it again after the last race at Monza. The feeling can last a minute, a week or a month, but then I began to work again because I enjoy what I do. To work well, you have to enjoy what you do."

Schumacher was soon back on track last week, testing at the Mugello circuit in preparation for this Sunday's United States Grand Prix, with the race taking place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the famous "Brickyard". A world-class road track has been built, with the circuit snaking through the infield, but more significantly and from a historical standpoint, it makes use of the famous banked oval.

It is one of the rare occasions in Formula One that all the drivers start on a relatively level standing, having not seen the circuit before, just like with last year's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang. Schumacher won that race as he returned from a three-month lay-off following his accident in the British Grand Prix when he broke a leg, and he is now the favourite to win in America.

Ferrari's sporting director Jean Todt, is confident Schumacher will remain with the Italian marque after the expiry of his contract in 2002, despite speculation he could leave. Although Schumacher has won more races than any other driver for Ferrari, the Maranello outfit are still awaiting their first world title since Jody Scheckter in 1979. However, Todt said: "Michael, driving for Ferrari for the last five years, has won 22 grands prix with us until now. An absolute record. Michael feels at home with Ferrari, and it's a question of feelings, not results.

"This is one of the reasons Michael and Ferrari have the intention to continue working together for many more years after the natural expiry of the contract in 2002."

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