SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug 30 (Reuters) - ‘Michael, make it 400’ urged the poster displayed at the entrance to Francorchamps village in Belgium on Thursday, but Michael Schumacher, Formula One’s record man extraordinaire, recognised his limits.
Celebrating his 300th grand prix this weekend at his favourite track, the 43-year-old, seven-times world champion had to admit that even his comeback could not extend that far into the future.
Although, in a sport where ‘never say never’ is something of a mantra, there remained a slight tinge of doubt.
”I guess I can say not,“ smiled the German at a circuit news conference when the subject arose. ”It’s obviously nice that the fans are still with me and encourage me to go on.
“For the 400? We probably say no for that one.”
Schumacher, winner of a record 91 races and only the second driver to reach the 300 mark, retired after a staggeringly successful run with Ferrari in 2006 and returned with Mercedes in 2010 to a more frustrating reality.
He has been on the podium only once so far in his second Formula One existence, in Valencia this season when he finished third - without realising it until the team told him after he crossed the line.
Spa, however, has been special to him. The Belgian circuit witnessed his debut in 1991 and his first victory in 1992, as well as his last title in 2004.
On Thursday, he was made an honorary citizen.
”That is something very special to me,“ he said. ”And that’s why the 300 becomes special - because it’s in Spa. It all happened to me here in Spa.
“Spa has always meant a lot to me. I always called it my living room - now I can officially call it my living room.”
Whether Schumacher will continue beyond 2012, with his contract expiring at the end of the year, remains a major topic of conversation and one that he refused to put to bed in Belgium.
“I think we made a very clear statement some time ago that by October we will be able to give an indication and nothing has changed since then, so no news I‘m afraid,” he said when asked about his plans.
“How many (races) will it be in the end? We will have to find out. Don’t know yet. Certainly go to the end of the season.”
The passion of old remained, however.
“Formula One is the ultimate racing and if you’re involved, you’re only involved because you want to do the best that you can do,” said Schumacher, who recognised he would struggle to list his records or recall all his races.
“There’s been plenty of satisfaction that I’ve had over more than 20 years now and I still enjoy it.” (Editing by Matt Barker)