Michael Schumacher's manager Willi Weber has stoked the flames of speculation by contending that were the record-breaking multiple F1 World Champion to make a comeback with Mercedes Grand Prix in 2010, he would be capable of battling for glory – but Niki Lauda is far from as convinced that a return is on the cards for the most successful driver in the sport's history.
Schumacher's name has been linked with Mercedes Grand Prix – formerly Brawn GP
– ever since recently-crowned 2009 F1 World Champion Jenson Button
revealed that he was jumping ship to McLaren-Mercedes next year, alongside compatriot and title-winning predecessor Lewis Hamilton.
Those who believe a return to the grand prix grid is a genuine possibility for the man who hung up his helmet at the end of his 15th full campaign at the highest level in 2006, point to the fact that his competitive instincts and thirst for success have been re-awakened by his test outing for Ferrari
and ultimately abortive comeback attempt in-place of injured former team-mate Felipe Massa
back in the summer.
Whilst both sides are playing down the fevered rumours, there has been no categorical denial from either party, and Weber's assertion that the 40-year-old is 'absolutely fit' once again – following the neck injury he sustained in a motorcycling fall at Cartagena in Spain earlier this year, that ultimately ruled him out of substituting Massa – does little to dampen the paddock whispers.
“His neck is also completely fine, just like his entire psyche,” Weber told German weekly Bunte
. “He could drive for victories.”
Triple F1 World Champion Lauda, however, has poured scorn upon talk of Schumacher coming out of retirement to partner countryman Nico Rosberg
in an all-German Silver Arrows 'super team' at Mercedes in 2010 – arguing that the Kerpen native would have been willing to return for a limited period in Massa's stead, but not for an entire campaign.
“I don't believe that there is one single grain of truth in them, at least from all the signals that I get,” the 60-year-old Austrian told the official F1 website, when asked about the rumours. “There was a window of opportunity after Felipe's accident, and had Michael been fit he would have taken up that chance to race for three or four races – to prove himself, get the adrenaline rush and see where he stood in the pecking order – but I cannot believe that he would be up for a full season. Why then he did stop racing in the first place?”