Commentary

Seven-time F1 champ Schumacher keeping plenty busy

Let's get this straight. Michael Schumacher is not retired. He may not be racing Formula One cars, but he's doing just about everything else under the sun to occupy his time, writes Dan Knutson.

Updated: December 28, 2007, 1:11 PM ET
By Dan Knutson | Special to ESPN.com

Skydiver, vacationer, Ferrari consultant, go-kart racer, family man, Formula One test driver, mansion owner, MotoGP rider and, most recently, taxi driver.

Michael Schumacher has been doing various things since he retired 14 months ago. But there is one thing he has no intention of doing, and that is becoming an F1 race driver again.

[+] EnlargeMichael Schumacher
AP Photo/Miguel Angel MorenattiMichael Schumacher says he has no plans to step back into an F1 cockpit to compete.

"Not even a rumor! No intention of it. Definitely not," he emphatically told reporters when asked if there was any chance of him making a comeback.

Schumacher's last Grand Prix was in Brazil on Oct. 22, 2006.

He qualified his Ferrari 10th because of a fuel pressure problem. Eight laps into the race he had carved his way up to fifth, only to have a flat tire drop him to last. He then charged up to fourth place, passing his 2007 Ferrari replacement, Kimi Raikkonen, on the way.

On the second-to-last lap of his F1 career, Schumacher set the fastest lap of the race. He retired at the peak of his powers.

During the past year he drove a Ferrari F1 car in a few demonstration runs, but never in real anger. Then, just after the 2007 season ended, he turned some laps at Ferrari's Fiorano test track at the team's base in Italy.

"It was the trigger," he said. "When I was driving those few laps, I really felt it … and I really missed it, and if it was possible, I would like to [drive again.]"

A couple of phone calls to Ferrari was all it took for them to provide a car for Schumacher in a multiteam offseason test session at Spain's Barcelona circuit in November.

Schumacher set the fastest lap times both days he was on the track. Although Raikkonen, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso were not testing, it was still a remarkable performance.

"It took me a bit of time, maybe two laps, and then I was back into the groove," Schumacher said afterward. "And I have to say I surprised myself that I was so quickly on it again."

Some people thought that Ferrari and its sponsors let Schumacher test for a publicity stunt. The team insisted that his knowledge was still important. Schumacher said he was there to help the team, and he definitely wasn't there as a driver-coach.

"It is not about helping Kimi or Felipe [Massa] personally," he said. "They know how to drive. It is about helping the development of the car. I can still give valuable input."

Schumacher still goes to the gym to stay in shape, but his main physical exercise is playing soccer. He says he hates sitting around on the sofa.

Since retiring, Schumacher has been spending time with his family at their palatial estate in Switzerland. And they have been vacationing around the world.

He is on Ferrari's payroll as a consultant, but just what he has and will do is still being defined.

In November he went to Brazil to compete in a charity go-kart race put on by former Ferrari teammate Massa. Drivers from F1, the IRL, Champ Car, GP2 and other series took part.

Schumacher won the first heat and finished sixth in the second after a collision. Based on the points, he was declared the overall winner.

"I told Felipe I was worried of getting the last place," he said.

I give myself new challenges. I do a lot of things like that. I was doing my parachuting license at some point and things like that. I like exploring new things. And I'm kind of a restless guy.

-- Michael Schumacher

In November, Schumacher rode some fast laps on a Grand Prix motorcycle when he took Casey Stoner's championship-winning Ducati GP7 for a spin at Spain's Valencia circuit. He was just five seconds slower per lap than the fastest lap set by Dani Pedrosa in the MotoGP race the day before.

"I give myself new challenges," Schumacher said. "I do a lot of things like that. I was doing my parachuting license at some point and things like that. I like exploring new things. And I'm kind of a restless guy."

In the Race of Champions on Dec. 16, going up against some of the best drivers in the world -- including reigning NASCAR Cup champ Jimmie Johnson -- Schumacher and F1 driver Sebastian Vettel won the overall team Nations Cup for Germany.

And then Schumacher finished second overall in the individual competition at the ROC for the Champion of Champions crown behind Mattias Ekstrom, a two-time champion in the German DTM touring car series.

Schumacher tested again for Ferrari at Spain's Jerez track in early December. This time, Hamilton and Raikkonen were also there. Schumacher was eighth- and fourth-quickest on his two days on the track. With drivers running both slick and grooved tires, different electronics and various aerodynamic downforce levels, it was difficult to compare lap times.

"Like in [the] Barcelona [test], we are preparing for 2008," Schumacher said. "On the electronics, finding out all solutions and strategies, possibilities on the setup. We have done lots of work, and understood lots of things. We also did some slick [tire] work."

So does Schumacher like testing work?

"I like driving," he said. "Work? I don't treat it like that.

"Driving the car … it is great. [It's] a pleasure if you don't have further responsibility, pressure for the season and so on. It is the sheer driving I enjoy."

At the moment there are no plans for Schumacher to test the 2008 Ferrari when it comes out. And he will not test during the 2008 season. Restrictions on testing mean that Raikkonen and Massa will be doing the bulk of the important testing work.

Besides, Schumacher can always take up a different driving profession: taxi driver. Recently, while on vacation in Germany, Schumacher and his family were late getting to the airport. He asked the taxi driver if he could take the wheel.

"It was crazy having Schumi driving, with me in the passenger seat!" the taxi driver told the Muenchner Abendzeitung newspaper.

The Schumachers made their flight, and the taxi driver got a tip of nearly $150 for riding along.

Dan Knutson covers Formula One for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.

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