Red Bull and Williams have denied Michael Schumacher's request to break the Formula One rules by testing for Ferrari ahead of his race return, in place of the injured Felipe Massa, in the European Grand Prix.
Although any track time during F1's summer break would not help the German learn the Valencia street circuit ahead of his return, it would contravene the gentleman's agreement banning in-season testing that has so far held up under the pressure of the 2009 season's new rulebook and, according to the objectors, set a dangerous precedent for the future.
Principal to Red Bull's resistance is the fact that Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Jaime Alguersuari - a driver with significantly less F1 experience than seven-time world champion Schumacher - was denied the chance to get acquainted with his car ahead of his debut in the Hungarian Grand Prix and duly turned up in Budapest having completed only the permitted straight-line runs.
"Jamie Alguersuari had never sat in an F1 car before his first race last weekend in Hungary, and I am sure that Michael Schumacher, who is a seven-time world champion and has won 91 races, won't have a problem getting up to speed," Red Bull Racing team boss Christian Horner confirmed, "Also, Michael has driven a two-year-old Ferrari at Mugello, so I have no doubt that he will be on the pace quickly."
Schumacher indeed completed nearly 70 laps of the Mugello circuit late last week, but at the wheel of a 2007-spec Ferrari as running the current F60 would have broken the rules. The Scuderia dug the two-year old machine out from its F1 Clienti department and fitted it with slick tyres for the outing, giving Schumacher - who injured his neck in a superbike accident earlier this year - more of a physical work-out than any technical head-start ahead of his race return.
“It's a great thing getting back on the track with an F1 car, even if this was a car from 2007 with slicks usually used in GP2, so obviously there is no real point of reference,” the German revealed, “After a couple of laps, I was able to drive constant lap times and I'm happy with the performance. Now we've got to see how my body and the muscles respond in the next days.”
Schumacher has also had the chance to test the current breed of F1 steering wheel in Ferrari's simulator, and should be able to adapt to the F60 with relative ease when the European GP weekend kicks off on Friday 21 August, even if he will be unfamiliar with the dramatically-altered aero package mandated for the 2009 season.
Williams team boss Frank Williams welcomed the seven-time champion back into the F1 fold, but insisted that his objection to any further testing stemmed purely from his desire to see the rulebook remain intact.
"The fact is that any form of in-season circuit testing is strictly prohibited, a regulation clearly laid out by the FIA and adhered to by all of the teams," he said, "It was for this reason that Alguersuari, who drove an F1 car for the very first time in Hungary, did not have the opportunity to familiarise himself with the Toro Rosso before he made his race debut.
"Williams F1 sees no distinction between Alguersuari's situation and Schumacher's and feels that any deviation from the rule would create a precedent for the future."
It is understood, meanwhile, that the majority of F1 teams would have been willing to give Schumacher the leeway to test if that had been the consensus of opinion within teams' organisation FOTA. Williams remains outside the body following its decision to break ranks and sign up to next year's F1 world championship at the eight of the dispute between FOTA and the FIA, but Red Bull remains an intrinsic part of the group and its opposition to the test is key to blocking Schumacher's request.