Michael Schumacher has admitted that there is 'a very, very, very strong possibility that he will be driving for Mercedes' in F1 2010, Luca di Montezemolo has revealed – as the Ferrari President added that he is having to re-assure the 'upset' tifosi
that the record-breaking multiple world champion is not 'a traitor' for choosing to walk away.
Speculation that the most successful driver in F1 history is to make a sensational comeback is gathering pace by the day, three years on from what some deemed to be an enforced retirement before he was ready to go – given the option of either hanging up his helmet or else shunting team-mate Felipe Massa out of a seat as Kimi Raikkonen arrived at Maranello.
It is now believed that a final medical scan following a private test session in the New Year is the sole remaining minor obstacle to a Schumacher return – and di Montezemolo recently confirmed that upon successful completion of that, the Scuderia
would not stand in his way [see separate story – click here
Indeed, with his motivation and desire for glory still clearly firmly intact, only the neck injury that ruled him out of replacing Massa following the Brazilian's Hungaroring accident earlier this year now looks capable of similarly scuppering Schumacher's 2010 comeback bid – and a clearly disappointed but understanding di Montezemolo has confirmed that in a short telephone conversation this week, the German confessed that a deal is now all-but a certainty.
“I hadn't spoken to him since Abu Dhabi, but I spoke to him on Wednesday and he told me there is a very, very, very strong possibility that he will be driving for Mercedes,” the erudite Italian is quoted as having said by the Daily Mail
, “but it is not 100 per cent decided.
“We have a guy called Michael Schumacher. The real Michael Schumacher is fantastic. He is a Ferrari consultant. He always told me he would finish his career at Ferrari. Don't forget that when you start collaboration with a driver as long ago as we did with Michael, in 1995, you are also a friend. You can agree and disagree, but you remain friends. I won't forget what he did for Ferrari, and he won't forget what we did for him.
“But there is another Michael – 40-41 years old, German, same name – and he has decided to [start] a new career. Everybody in life can do what they prefer. It is wonderful [that] he wants to try again – I like these people – but it is not the Michael I know; it is his twin. We have a lot of fans on the website who are very, very upset. They think Michael is a traitor, but I will explain to them that this is another Michael.
“As a friend, it is difficult – I'm happy to see someone so fit and with so much determination – but as the President of Ferrari, I am sad. Michael has been special for us, and we have been special for him. In the bad times he was good, which is why we have to accept there is another Michael. We will not have him back, because the real Michael is still at Ferrari.”
di Montezemolo went on to explain that it took just five minutes to persuade Schumacher to agree to substitute Massa back in the summer as he 'was ready to be convinced', adding that when doctors subsequently halted his plan abruptly in its tracks, 'he was more than sad – he was destroyed'.