Record-breaking seven-time F1 World Champion Michael Schumacher has admitted that he does 'slightly regret' having elected to hang up his helmet three years ago – as he gave his clearest hint yet that the top flight remains unfinished business for him.
Schumacher retired at the end of the 2006 F1 World Championship campaign, having competed in no fewer than 16 seasons at the highest level that yielded a staggering 91 grand prix victories, 154 podium finishes and an unrivalled points tally of 1,369.
However, he sensationally announced back in the summer that he was willing and prepared to return to the grid to substitute former team-mate Felipe Massa following the Brazilian's freak high-speed Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying accident that left him sidelined with a fractured skull and head and eye injuries – from which the 28-year-old is now happily almost fully recovered.
Although a subsequent test highlighted the fact that the German's neck was still not sufficiently healed from a motorcycling fall he had suffered at Cartagena in Spain back in February to adequately withstand the pressures of an F1 car – and consequently ruled him out of his desired comeback – it soon became apparent that the outing had re-awakened Schumacher's competitive instinct and the desire in him to compete once more.
Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has made little secret of his wish for teams to be allowed to run three cars in 2010 – ostensibly to be able to field Schumacher alongside confirmed pairing Massa and Fernando Alonso – and whilst F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone has insisted that this will emphatically not
happen, the most successful driver in the sport's history has dropped further hints that his mind may already be made up.
“From now to the end of the year, my neck injury will be healed to the point where I could drive again,” the 40-year-old revealed in an interview with Der Spiegel
magazine, “though I have nothing to prove to anyone, not even myself.
“I still slightly regret having retired three years ago, but there's no reason whatsoever for me to definitively announce that I will not come back. The life I lead makes me happy, but who knows that will happen a few months or a year down the line?”
Schumacher has confirmed that he will again contest the Race of Champions end-of-season spectacular, being held in the Bird's Nest Stadium in Beijing this year and featuring newly-crowned F1 World Champion Jenson Button, Red Bull Racing rival Sebastian Vettel, eight-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Tom Kristensen, current World Rally Championship leader Mikko Hirvonen and triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx.
Beyond that, it has emerged that the Kerpen native might continue his occasional motorcycling forays in 2010, as long as they remain just that – occasional.
“We wanted him to be the official rider all season-long, but he didn't want that,” KTM motorsport advisor Heinz Kinigadner told Bild
newspaper when asked about speculation that 'Schumi' might enter the International German Motorcycle Championship, an idea his manager Willi Weber acknowledged is 'possible'. “He didn't want to put himself under the stress of a whole season of racing.”