London, December 15: The momentum behind a possible return to Formula One by Michael Schumacher gathered pace on Monday when Ferrari announced they would not stand in the seven-time champion’s way.
Schumacher has acted as a consultant for Ferrari since his retirement in 2006, a position he would have to relinquish if he took up the reported seven million euro deal to drive for Mercedes in 2010.
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said the 40-year-old German’s role was “not binding”, a statement that removed yet one further obstacle to what would be a dream return not only for new outfit Mercedes and F1 fans but also for the sport’s organisers.
Di Montezemolo, in comments on the BBC’s website, added: “If he takes another road our agreement will no longer be valid.
“You can’t work with a competitor and with us at the same time.
“I still haven’t spoken to him about it. He is only a dear friend, not a team member. He is a consultant for our road cars.”
Schumacher was all set to return to the fast lane in August as a replacement for the injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari, only for his comeback to be thwarted by the neck injury he sustained in a bike accident in February.
Schumacher’s neck injury is now understood to have fully healed.
On Sunday reports from Germany suggested Schumacher had agreed a deal to drive alongside Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, the team that powered Jenson Button to the drivers’ title racing as Brawn GP.
Mercedes bought out the British-based outfit which rose from the ashes of Honda, with as its guiding light Ross Brawn, Ferrari’s former chief engineer.
Rosberg, who has already been signed up for Mercedes, is excited at having Schumacher as his teammate, the drive having become available with Button’s move to McLaren.
“I hope that my team mate will be sorted out pretty soon and at the moment the rumours are very strong for Michael Schumacher,” the 24-year-old said.
“I have no idea if it is true or not but obviously if he would join that would be an absolutely fantastic move.”
Former world champion Damon Hill weighed in to the ‘should he shouldn’t he’ debate over a possible comeback by Schumacher at the weekend – urging the 41-year-old to go for it.
“If I can win a race when I was 37 in a Jordan, then Michael can definitely win a race in a Ross Brawn car at 41,” the Briton who won the title in 1996 wrote in The Times on Saturday.
If he did return Schumacher would be by no means the oldest driver to start a race – that distinction is held by France’s Louis Chiron, who was 58 years and 288 days when he lined up for the 1958 Monaco Grand Prix.
And should he return and actually win a race then Schumacher will be some 12 years younger than Luigi Fagioli, who was 53 years and 22 days when he won the 1951 French Grand Prix.