- Schumacher to return to retirement after season
- Hamilton admits Suzuka could be awkward after Mercedes news
- Whitmarsh to 'protect' Hamilton amid McLaren exit furore
- FIA clamps down on new 'flexi wing' saga
- Kubica eyes 'track' testing as next step back to F1
- Signs suggest Kovalainen's Caterham career ending
Schumacher to return to retirement after season
Michael Schumacher on Thursday announced he will return to retirement at the end of the season.
The news, announced by the seven time world champion at Suzuka ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix, follows Mercedes' decision to replace him for 2013 with Lewis Hamilton.
The German had been linked with a move elsewhere, but with his voice creaking with emotion he said in Japan: "I still feel I am capable of competing against the best but the time sometimes comes to say goodbye and this time it might be forever."
Schumacher is not ruling out taking up a non-driving role with Mercedes, however.
After retiring for the first time after 2006, the great German returned to the paddock as a trackside consultant for Ferrari.
And Mercedes chiefs Dieter Zetsche and Norbert Haug have now offered Schumacher a similar non-driving role for 2013 and beyond.
Schumacher said on Thursday he is not ready to decide what to do next.
"It was the same with my first retirement," he is quoted by Auto Motor und Sport. "Once the season ends, I'm going to ask myself what I want to do with my time.
"There are ways for me to continue to work within the group."
He dismissed the speculation he could have kept racing with Sauber or Williams.
"I have not thought about it," said the record winner of 91 Grands Prix, "because I didn't want to do that."
Hamilton admits Suzuka could be awkward after Mercedes news
Although the uncertainty about his future is now over, Lewis Hamilton admits it could be awkward when he walks into his garage at Suzuka this weekend.
The Japanese GP will be the first race in the Briton's six-year career at which other McLaren team members know for sure that Hamilton is departing.
The 2008 world champion has decided to switch to Mercedes for 2013, prompting Hamilton to admit: "It will be interesting walking into the garage (at Suzuka).
"There are a couple of guys who work on my car have been there with me since 2007.
"There are other people who have been in the team since I started and I have great relationships with them, and I have not had a chance to speak to them.
"I told Martin (Whitmarsh) that I wanted to have a big get together in the canteen and speak to the team and answer any questions they may have."
Speaking at Tokyo's Conrad hotel, Hamilton also admitted he is yet to talk to his former boss and mentor Ron Dennis, which suggests that their relationship is broken.
"I did try to get hold of Ron, but I did not manage to speak to him," said Hamilton.
"You will have to ask Ron if he feels that way," he added, when asked if Dennis would be right to feel betrayed after shaping Hamilton's career since boyhood.
Hamilton said he hopes he can leave McLaren after next month's Brazil finale with his relationship with the team intact.
"When I spoke to Martin I said that the plan was not to burn bridges. There was no unrest with McLaren."
He admits the decision to switch to Mercedes was difficult, with his choice swinging "like a pendulum" in recent weeks.
"It has been very, very stressful," said Hamilton.
"One moment I would think 'let's go for it', the next I would think 'I'm going to stay'.
"It was important to do it on my terms," he said, explaining his long deliberations.
"I wasn't going to be pushed and rushed, although there was a lot of pressure. I had a couple of deadlines, I didn't meet any one of them."
He said that, ultimately, he made the call to leave McLaren because it is a bigger challenge to build Mercedes into a championship winning team.
"I could have stayed and it would have been easy," he said. "They (McLaren) are an incredible team. They have the best facilities by far. The factory is untouchable; they've got everything, really, so in fact they should be winning more."
Hamilton also denied it was a bigger financial offer that persuaded him to leave.
"I had two offers on the table which were very, very similar. One had slightly fewer (PR) days but it was not about the offer.
"Martin asked me what more they could have done. I said 'to be honest, Martin, it is about the challenge'.
"I don't know what is going to happen. I just know that everyone has to experience these things, working with new people and in new environments.
"That is just part of growing up. It's my last step of independence, I guess."
And the challenge, Hamilton conceded, is trying to emulate the feats of "greats" like Michael Schumacher, who have in the past traded a winning car for a tougher project.
"We haven't really got any other driver in Formula One (except Schumacher) who is known for that. I hope that one day someone can say that about me.
"The way I look at it is that I am walking over that bridge (at McLaren) and down a different path. If that path brings me back, then who knows?"
Whitmarsh to 'protect' Hamilton amid McLaren exit furore
A new task on Martin Whitmarsh's busy job-list for the rest of 2012 will be to "protect" Lewis Hamilton after the long-time McLaren protege decided to leave the great British team at the end of the season.
"Clearly there will be cause to be distracted in the next days and weeks," McLaren boss Whitmarsh admitted.
He is referring to Hamilton's bombshell news about Mercedes.
Whitmarsh must now ensure the 27-year-old's focus remains on trying to win this year's titles in a McLaren, even though success for the Briton would mean Hamilton takes the coveted 'number 1' to the nose of a different silver car in 2013.
He admitted there will be new distractions around Hamilton as a result for the all-important final six races of his McLaren career.
"We've got to try and protect him from that," said Whitmarsh.
"He's assured me that he's a McLaren man for the rest of this year and that he's going to be completely focused on winning and we are going to try and create as much protection of him and the environment in which he can do that."
Whitmarsh also denied that, despite his championship contention, McLaren might begin to walk away early from Hamilton, including by flowing the bulk of the development items to his teammate Jenson Button, and locking him out of discussions.
"Lewis is a McLaren driver, he will be the recipient of the development items that we have for this year's car," he insisted.
"He will have every single development for instance in Japan and beyond.
"In that regard, he will be involved in the development at the race circuit, although clearly he won't be involved in the development of next year's car," explained Whitmarsh.
FIA clamps down on new 'flexi wing' saga
The FIA has moved quickly to clamp down on F1's latest 'flexi wing' saga.
It emerged this week that the governing body was alerted by Ferrari to new tricks aboard the McLaren and Red Bull cars.
Reports said the teams have devised a way to gain an aerodynamic advantage by getting their frong wings to twist on the horizontal axis.
But Germany's Auto Motor und Sport reports from Suzuka on Thursday that the FIA has reacted immediately.
Scrutineers, unusually working behind closed garage doors in the Japan pitlane, have apparently carried out a brand new flexibility compliance test.
Auto Motor und Sport said every 2012 car passed.
But it is not known if McLaren and Red Bull subjected their Singapore-spec 'flexi' wings to the test, or passed with a new specification.
Auto Motor und Sport said the new test involved pressure being applied closer to the middle of the wing, rather than just on the extremities.
The report said McLaren insists it passed the new test without modifying the wing, but Auto Motor und Sport believes the real truth will only emerge "on the racetrack" this weekend.
Indeed, and contrary to usual procedures, no spare front wings could be seen outside the McLaren or Red Bull garages on Thursday.
Kubica eyes 'track' testing as next step back to F1
Having contested three minor Italian rallies since returning to active competition recently, Robert Kubica has revealed he is now eyeing "the track".
The Pole has not yet driven a single seater since returning to health, because the long-term injuries to his right arm make full movement inside the cockpit currently impossible.
But Kubica, rated as one of the best F1 drivers through his BMW and Renault career until the end of 2010, has admitted he has targeted a return to F1-style circuit running in the near future.
"When I think about the future, I see myself 70 per cent on the track and 30 per cent in rallies," he is quoted by Autosprint magazine.
The 27-year-old announced that he wants to contest a full-time motor racing series "of the highest possible level" in 2013, with a 2014 return to F1 the obvious next target.
But he insisted: "Talking about F1 now is very premature. I'm pretty much starting from scratch. Rallies are useful for the adrenaline and the tension, but the track requires more concentration.
"So I want to switch between the two. I am planning a series of tests on tracks," Kubica revealed.
Signs suggest Kovalainen's Caterham career ending
Heikki Kovalainen appears headed for the exit at Caterham.
The Finn arrived at the 2010 startup with a battered image after his formative years with Renault and McLaren, but he is now linked with a move to a more competitive team for 2013.
He has also been in talks with Caterham, but team boss Tony Fernandes said when asked about Kovalainen's future in Singapore: "Well, it's ... I don't know."
Under the Singapore lights, Caterham lost its lucrative tenth place in the constructors' championship to Marussia, having always previously enjoyed the status as clearly the best of F1's three youngest teams.
Kovalainen has now told Turun Sanomat newspaper that, indeed, Caterham's advantage over its immediate opposition has narrowed in recent times.
He explained that the safety car helped Timo Glock to secure Marussia's season-best 12th in Singapore.
"Before, there was so much (of a gap) between us that even with something like the safety car we were still able to beat them," said Kovalainen.
A further sign that Kovalainen's Caterham tenure is coming to an end is the news that Dutchman Giedo van der Garde - the team's well-backed GP2 driver - will drive Kovalainen's car in Friday morning practice at Suzuka this weekend.
In Singapore recently, the 27-year-old revealed that his supporters were pushing hard for a grand prix debut in 2013.
"We will do everything to make it happen," van der Garde is quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper.
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