While Michael Schumacher continues to prevaricate over whether to return to a Formula One cockpit full-time in 2010, one of the men hoping to oversee him in a Mercedes-Benz cockpit has insisted that a comeback is a good idea.
Former Honda and Brawn CEO Nick Fry told reporters attending this week's Motorsport Business Forum in Monaco that Schumacher returning to take on the likes of Jenson Button, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and, for the first time in direct competition, Lewis Hamilton, could only be good for the sport.
"I think, whether it be Michael or another prior world champion, it just adds another very interesting element," Fry told Reuters
, without revealing whether the team was actively engaged in negotiations with the German.
"Can a 40 or 41-year-old compete against someone who is 24 years old? In other sports, people have proven that they are very capable, even at that age,” he continued, "I think that would add another fascinating aspect [to the sport] and I think it is irrelevant whether it is Michael or Jacques [Villeneuve]. I was joking with Mika [Hakkinen] the other day that maybe he should throw his hand in…”
While Hakkinen appears to happily retired, 1997 champion Villeneuve has also been linked to a return to the top flight in 2010. However, despite much media mileage and repeated appearances at races towards the end of 2009, the Canadian has yet to officially confirm a deal.
While Fry would only admit that Mercedes was 'talking to three or four drivers' with a view to partnering the already-signed Nico Rosberg next year, he openly admitted that a more experienced pilot than the young German would be an ideal fit.
"Nationality has got nothing to do with it at all,” he said, referring to the perceived notion that Mercedes wants two German drivers in 2010, “Mercedes has said it would be nice to have a driver who was German, and we've got that already with Nico, but it wasn't a big deal from the start.
“We learned very clearly this year that you've got to have two drivers capable of scoring points in every single race, and the reason why we won the constructors' championship is because we had that. I think that, with the lack of testing, it's very difficult to expect younger drivers to do that so, clearly, highest on our list are people with F1 experience."
While the rumours look set to rumble on towards Christmas – with Mercedes now not expected to reveal Rosberg's partner until the New Year - one seasoned F1 observer insists that Schumacher switching camps was unlikely given his role at Ferrari.
Former UK coverage commentator James Allen reports that Scuderia boss Luca di Montezemolo has privately claimed that the German will not be leaving Maranello during the remaining years of his recently-extended advisory contract with the brand – and definitely not to a rival in the road-going sportscar market.