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Michael Schumacher 'will continue as Mercedes driver'

Mercedes driver Michael Schumacher

Schumacher enjoys chance to race Rosberg

By Jonathan Legard and Andrew Benson

Michael Schumacher's Mercedes team have rejected reports he could lose his drive at the end of this season and take up a management role at the team.

There have been claims the German could step down and be installed as Mercedes GP's sporting director after a season.

But Mercedes sports boss Norbert Haug denied this to BBC Sport.

"There is more credibility in Norbert Haug becoming an F1 driver than in Michael Schumacher becoming sporting director of Mercedes," said Haug, 58.

The German's comments came a day after he defended Schumacher in the wake of claims that the seven-time world champion is past his best and will never be able to reclaim his past form.

The 41-year-old returned to F1 at the start of this campaign following three years in retirement.

Michael Schumacher and Norbert Haug
Haug (right) insists Schumacher's future is in the cockpit, not the pit wall

But he has failed to live up to expectations and has been regularly out-performed by team-mate Nico Rosberg.

Haug, though, insisted at the Japanese Grand Prix: "He is as good as he ever was, probably better. Of course there was no ultimatum."

Schumacher signed a three-year contract with Mercedes that should see him race at least until the end of 2012.

The German newspaper Bild reported last week that Schumacher had been warned by his team that he would not see out the final year of his three-year contract unless he raised his game.

But that claim was rejected by Haug, who insisted the German remained a key component of the team.

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Haug said: "We are currently a little bit handicapped with our car but I have no complaints and no regrets that we're going to achieve our target. We need to work hard.

"Michael is relaxed, concentrated. He doesn't need anybody to defend him, certainly not me but we are very happy with the job he's doing.

"If you take into consideration that he was not in Formula 1 for three years, we are heading in the right direction and there is certainly not an ultimatum."

He added: "I'm happy and I think the Formula 1 community should be very happy to have Michael."

Last month BBC Sport pundit Eddie Jordan predicted Schumacher might quit at the end of this season, although this was denied by Mercedes boss Ross Brawn as well as the German's manager.

Schumacher believes his troubles this year are rooted in the particular characteristics of the Mercedes car and the control Bridgestone tyres used this year, which do not suit his driving style.

He has also come under fire for his driving and was punished for almost pushing Williams driver Rubens Barrichello into the pit wall at the Hungarian Grand Prix in August, a move that earned him a 10-place penalty on the grid at the next race.

The concerns over Schumacher's ability to recapture his past form have come at the same time as tensions at the Mercedes team.

BBC Sport understands there have been disagreements between Haug and Brawn over the future direction of the team.

Haug insists they are working together to ensure the team are more competitive in 2011.

Schumacher knows both men well - he won all his seven titles working with Brawn at Benetton and Ferrari - and is understood to be working to ensure the team retain harmony.



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see also
Red Bull on top in Japan practice
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Hamilton suffers practice crash
08 Oct 10 |  Formula 1
Why Schumacher has lost it
28 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher may quit F1 - Jordan
12 Sep 10 |  Formula 1
Schumacher docked 10 grid places
01 Aug 10 |  Formula 1
I'm here to stay, says Schumacher
26 Jun 10 |  Formula 1
Mercedes not good enough - Brawn
26 Jun 10 |  Formula 1


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