Michael Schumacher's future in Formula 1 will be sorted out within the next six weeks, with his Mercedes team now preparing to make a decision on what it wants to do with its drivers for next year.
The seven-time champion's contract with the team runs out at the end of this season, and both he and the team have been open-minded about whether they will continue or decide to call time on his career. Speaking at the FOTA Fans' Forum at the Williams factory on Tuesday night, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn said he expected a decision before the end of the summer break about Schumacher's future.
"We will make a decision this summer," said Brawn. "We have not talked in depth about the situation, but we know it is coming and we have to make a decision soon.
"I think it can be driven from many different ways. But this year Michael has driven the best of the three years he has been with us this time, and it has been frustrating when we should have seen better results on track but there have been problems on the car or the way we have dealt with the races.
"I think in the next six weeks or so we will have to think about what we want to do next year, and that is the primary decision. Once that decision is made we will then know if we have to start looking around or stick with the drivers we have."
In the event of Schumacher not staying with the team, Mercedes has been linked with Paul di Resta, and Force India's team principal Bob Fernley said his squad would not stand in the way of its driver leaving if he wants to move to a more competitive team.
"Vijay [Mallya] has said in the past that we know we are not a championship-winning team at this point, and we know we have two good drivers in Nico [Hulkenberg] and Paul. If one was encouraged to join the top four, we would have to sit down to effect a commercial arrangement. We would not get in the way of the career of a driver but there would have to be commercial agreement in place."