Despite being denied the opportunity to return to Formula One at next weekend's European Grand Prix, Michael Schumacher would be given a chance to resurrect his career should Ferrari - and its rivals - be allowed to run three cars in future seasons.
That is the claim of Scuderia president Luca di Montezemolo who, after admitting his disappointment at losing the German's services for the forthcoming race in Valencia, revealed that he was still pushing to change the rules for 2010, so that he could enter a third car to help bolster grid numbers.
While the F1 field looks healthier than of late thanks to the addition of three new teams - Campos Meta, Manor Grand Prix and Team US F1 - for 2010, the loss of BMW Sauber last week continues to cast doubt on the long-term sustainability of numbers. Although work continues to try and find either a buyer or replacement for the Munich/Hinwil operation, fears remain over the health of other manufacturer-backed teams - notably Renault and Toyota - and di Montezemolo reveals that he would rather see three cars from the big teams than additional, uncompetitive, runners making up the numbers.
And, should a third car from Maranello be permitted, the president - who also oversees the work of teams' association FOTA - insists that Schumacher would be given a chance to return to the top flight, despite a lingering neck injury forcing him to can next weekend's comeback.
"We're continuing to fight until every team has the right to start with three cars in the next season," di Montezemolo confirmed in an interview with Italy's La Stampa
newspaper, "I'd prefer three Ferraris, McLarens and Renaults to three 'whatevers', and one I'd have handed over to Michael with pleasure. With BMW gone, there's not much to say, but lots to do."
In contrast to many of its rivals, Ferrari does not appear to have a young charger waiting for the opportunity to graduate to the top flight. Although reigning Italian F3 champion Mirko Bortolotti impressed during a prize-drive test session late last year - breaking the lap record at Fiorano - development driver Luca Badoer has been handed the chance to replace Schumacher as Felipe Massa's stand-in at the European GP.
Scuderia Toro Rosso recently called on Jaime Alguersuari to take over from Sebastien Bourdais from Budapest onwards, while Romain Grosjean is expected to be named as Nelson Piquet Jr's replacement at Renault should the team be allowed to compete in Valencia, but di Montezemolo insisted that he would have no question about offering an extra seat to seven-time world champion Schumacher.
"Well, we're talking about Michael Schumacher," he explained, "He is 40 years old, but he's still from another planet. I prefer the champion, even if matured, to the mediocre driver, even if he's young. He answered my request [to replace Massa] with such enthusiasm - the enthusiasm of a boy and not of a retired champion."