Bernie Ecclestone has welcomed Michael Schumacher's decision to come out of retirement and fill the seat vacated by injured Felipe Massa, even though he admits that he did not believe that the German would do so, and insists that he should continue beyond his stand-in role.

Ecclestone told to reporters that he had been surprised to learn of the seven-time world champion's return, but claimed that he expected the German to be a factor in the European Grand Prix, in Valencia, in three weekends' time even without the chance to test one of the latest-spec F1 cars.

"I think I was just as surprised as [Schumacher's manager] Willi Weber, who didn't know he was coming back [either]," F1's commercial supremo told a press conference, "I think it was [Ferrari president] Luca di Montezemolo that convinced him."

Schumacher's return could also have further good news for Ecclestone, with the European Grand Prix expected to see a rise in attendance now that fans know the German will be on the grid - even though local favourite Fernando Alonso's Renault team appears set to be absent following its Hungarian GP indiscretion.

Not only will the event reunite Schumacher and Ferrari, but it will also pit him against Kimi Raikkonen - his replacement in retirement - in equal machinery for the first time. While rivalries with Fernando Alonso - should Renault win its appeal - and former team-mate Rubens Barrichello will be affected by the cars currently at their disposal, the race will also give 'young guns' like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastien Vettel a first opportunity to tackle a driver who called time on his career before they entered the top flight, and Ecclestone is excited by the possibilities.

"He's always been super popular even though he won too many races and people said he was boring. He was never boring and he won't be boring now," he noted, "He obviously wouldn't have decided to come back unless he thought he was going to be competitive - Michael is a competitive guy, and I think he's going to give one or two of [the other drivers] a driving lesson."

With uncertainty surrounding Massa's comeback - even though the Brazilian insists he wants to return to F1 - Ecclestone revealed that he would love to see Schumacher stay on beyond the end of the season.

"I'd like to see him stay for a lot of seasons," he said, "Let's wait and see what happens in the next year - he might make a big decision. I see him winning again, for sure - I don't know why people are doubtful that he could. Yes, the car is not competitive, so I'd doubt anyone else could win in it, but if anyone can do it, Michael can. When he left, he left at the top, and that's how he's coming back."