Niki Lauda has welcomed the announcement that Michael Schumacher will see out the remainder of the 2009 Formula 1 season with Ferrari, saying his return is exactly what the ailing sport needs.
Schumacher defied expectations, including those from his own manager Wili Weber, to be confirmed as the shock replacement for the injured Felipe Massa, the seven-time world champion coming out of retirement to rejoin Ferrari
almost three years after hanging up his helmet.
His comeback has been met with universal approval from the F1 world, with many hailing it to be a timely promotional boost for a sport that has been beset by negative press for much of the season.
Among those behind Schumacher's return to competition is Lauda, who himself came out of retirement in 1982 to go on and win a third world title just two years later with McLaren.
"The return of Michael Schumacher is such a massive sensation that Bernie Ecclestone should pay him half his wages,” he told BBC Sport
. “Has there ever been anything more exciting in motor racing?
"I am not saying that Michael will win because that depends on the speed of the car but I have absolutely no doubts about his ability to perform as well as ever. I was 33 when I came out of retirement and he is 40 - but you are what age you want to be. I have no concerns about his reflexes. He will be brilliant.
"The most interesting thing will be to see him up against Kimi Raikkonen
in the other Ferrari
- who will be faster? Put it this way: Kimi has to get his act together or be shown up. After all the politics, the return of Michael Schumacher is the best thing for him, Ferrari
and Formula One. Watch him get in and go."
Schumacher's arrival is also set to bring Kimi Raikkonen's indifferent form with the team into focus, with Eddie Jordan mirroring Lauda's suggestions that this will be the impetus he and the team needs to 'rejuvenate a lacklustre season'.
"Well done to Ferrari
for making this happen but especially well done to Michael because he has nothing to gain out of this and a lot to lose.
"I've been massively critical of Kimi Raikkonen
and I think this is going to be the big wake-up call for him. You will see a new Raikkonen because he will not want to be disgraced by Michael.
"In fact, it could rejuvenate the whole of the Ferrari
team, which has been a bit lacklustre this year."