Even the end of a 2000-day podium drought is not enough to curb the speculation about Michael Schumacher’s future.
Although it was powered in part by Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s misfortunes at Valencia on Sunday, the seven time world champion’s return to the podium was an emotional moment for the once-robotic German.
Veteran engineer and manager Joan Villadelprat, who worked with Schumacher at Benetton years ago, admitted he watched the 43-year-old’s celebrations through “blurred eyes”.
It was Schumacher’s 156th career podium, but he was so excited on Sunday that he forgot the old routine and spoke in English when asked to address his fans in his native tongue in the official post-race press conference.
Realising his mistake, he roared with laughter and then started again, “maybe in German now”.
Asked if the emotion of the moment was the reason he decided to return to F1 from retirement, Schumacher agreed: “Yeah, it’s those moments that definitely you enjoy deeply.
“The team and myself have been criticised here and there, particularly lately, and this is the best way to answer and therefore I’m proud, thankful and very excited.”
So with a podium now in his pocket, is it the right time to think about a new contract for 2013?
“If I may apologise, I have no further news on that matter,” Schumacher insisted, “so give me the time that I need and we will see.”
Triple world champion Niki Lauda said his fellow F1 great is still on top of his game.
“His qualifying at Monaco was world class, and as we saw in Valencia, he is still one of the fastest if everything fits,” he told Kleine Zeitung newspaper.