Michael Schumacher’s long time manager has admitted the hype of the German’s return to formula one this year has not matched his expectations.
Sabine Kehm has taken over as the Mercedes driver’s general manager, but Willi Weber is still in charge of Schumacher’s personal sponsorship and merchandising.
But the 68-year-old admitted that, just as Schumacher has not performed to the level of his initial career, the sale of official merchandise has also been slow.
“Sales are not how I expected them to be,” Weber told Germany’s Bild-Zeitung daily. “There is a certain Schumi-tiredness. The people are saying: my god, where is he driving? You only know him as a winner.
“In the past the tribunes were full of Ferrari caps. Now I can count the silver caps with one hand,” he added.
Weber admits that Sebastian Vettel – originally dubbed ‘Baby-Schumi’ by the German media – is now carrying the baton as the country’s favourite.
“Wherever I look, Vettel is the new Schumi, he is the number one in the TV ads and on the billboards. Michael has left a void and Sebastian has grown into it, because he has the success and Michael doesn’t have it yet,” said Weber.
As for sponsorship, Weber admits it is a similarly slow story, but acknowledged that the entire F1 world is also struggling.
“It is easier to find a 50-year-old virgin than a sponsor for formula one,” he said.