Mercedes' German driver Michael Schumacher attends a press conference at the Autodromo Nazionale circuit on September 6, 2012 in Monza ahead of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix. AFP PHOTO / GIUSEPPE CACACE

After being - in effect - shown the door by Mercedes, speculation is rife around the future of seven times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher.

Mercedes announced on Friday that they had signed McLaren's Lewis Hamilton on a four-year contract to drive alongside Nico Rosberg from next season.

The announcement ended speculation whether Schumacher would continue with Mercedes beyond the end of this season.

The question now being asked is what is Schumacher going to do?

Retire, again? Or take on a role as a team official - or is he going to look for another team?

The 43-year-old and his team are - at the moment, at least - saying nothing, which in turn allows for much speculation.

One of the options being speculated about is a sensational return to Ferrari, where Felipe Massa's contract will expire at the end of the season.

Gazzetta dello Sport said on Saturday: “A chapter ends for Schumacher, but possibly not his era. There has been no statement from him that he is leaving for good.”

Ferrari, where Schumacher enjoyed most of his success between 1996 and 2006, said they did not want to comment on speculation, but the Daily Mirror said: “The tireless German will be looking for a new team to continue his career.”


The French newspaper L'Equipe suggested that Schumacher might be in line to join Sauber, but that would mean not only would he have to take a huge drop in salary, he would also be getting into a car that would not be continuously competitive.

But it was exactly that drive to be competitive that stopped Schumacher from committing to Mercedes earlier.

Team principal Ross Brawn told British media: “Michael was unsure what he wanted to do.”

Schumacher is said never to have given the team a clear indication, while Hamilton's management pushed for negotiations with Mercedes.

“Michael always knew of these discussions and he is happy that the team has managed to secure such a good alternative for the future,” Brawn said.

Brawn pointed out that Hamilton would not be considered the No.1 driver in the team.

“Lewis did not demand this in any of the negotiations. He wanted to make sure that he would be treated as Rosberg is treated, but he never demanded that he have No.1 status.”

Newspapers differed in their evaluation of the spectacular move. The Guardian called it: “A step into history”, while the Independent described it as “sporting suicide”.

One thing is clear: Hamilton has left a team that has been successful over years and is joining a team that has been competing for three years with a few highs and many lows.

Also not making Hamilton's job any easier is the fact that the 2008 world champion has to take over from Schumacher, whose work for Mercedes outside the circuit has been beyond reproach, regardless of the criticism he has had to endure over his race performance.

But before Hamilton sits in a Mercedes cockpit, both drivers will compete in six more races.

Ironically, in pursuit of the world title Hamilton needs the support of a team for which he no longer wants to drive, while Schumacher, if he wants to end his career on a high, needs the support of a team that no longer wants him. - Sapa-dpa