Schu will bounce back, says Webber

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 11 October, 2005, 12:00am

Don't write off Michael Schumacher in next year's Formula One championship. That's the message from Williams-BMW driver Mark Webber who was in town to promote his team before he leaves for Shanghai today for the final round of the series.

The 29-year-old driver has always been a fan of the great German and thinks it would be foolish to count him out of next year's championship even though he had to live in the shadows of Renault's Fernando Alonso and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen this season.

'You cannot underestimate him and never count him out. If you look at the last few races, you can see how hard he has driven,' said Australian Webber, whose team is sponsored by Coutts, a private banking arm of the Bank of Scotland.

Schumacher was unable to mount a sustained challenge against McLaren-Mercedes and Renault this season, but Webber feels Schumacher will come back stronger next year. 'We have never underestimated Michael's ability. He loves being written off and saying that he's not up for it anymore and that's when he will be back,' he said. 'I think the Michelin has enjoyed a tyre advantage this year and even if Ferrari was on Michelin tyres this year, I think the Renault and McLaren would have been a match for them. It's not the best Ferrari car they have had for Michael. Ferrari are looking to improve for next year along with Williams.'

Schumacher had said last month that he had no intention of retiring in the near future and still feels up to the challenge despite being the sport's oldest driver.

Webber was in Hong Kong less than 24 hours after enjoying one of his best races of the season in finishing fourth in Suzuka after racing for third position for much of the race.

'It was a very good performance,' said Webber of his fourth place finish last weekend. 'We started seventh on the grid. It was a mixed qualifying session because of the weather and it was damp for most of the session and it then rained heavily.

'A lot of the fast cars were at the back of the grid because of the heavy rain. We knew the race was going to be interesting but we didn't know it was going to be spectacular to be honest. I would have taken fourth place before the race began that's for sure.'

Webber is lying in 10th place in the championship but has a real chance of overtaking ninth-placed Jenson Button in Shanghai.