Some might be predicting a walkover, others that Nico Rosberg will not even be given the opportunity to take the fight to his illustrious Mercedes Grand Prix team-mate in F1 2010 – but Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx contends that the greatest threat to Michael Schumacher this year will most likely come from within.
Schumacher is rejoining the fray this season three years on from having initially hung up his grand prix helmet, and he has already made it palpably clear that he is back for one reason only – to add to his extraordinary career statistics of seven drivers' world championship crowns, 91 race victories, 154 podium finishes, 68 pole positions, 76 fastest laps and a staggering points total of 1,369.
That being so – and given the Kerpen native's famously close relationship with the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Ross Brawn from their time spent together at firstly Benetton and subsequently Ferrari, during which period the Englishman helped to expertly guide the German to each and every one of his F1 titles – the argument goes that Rosberg will merely be cast into the role of a bit-part player in the sensational comeback story of the most successful driver in the sport's long history.
Not necessarily so, cautions Ickx, no stranger to success himself courtesy of six triumphs in the iconic, round-the-clock Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar classic and eight grand prix victories in the 1960s and 1970s. If 'Schumi' wishes to recreate his winning ways at 41, contends the Belgian, first and foremost he will need to get the better of the driver with the same machinery at his disposal – and that will be no easy task.
“Rosberg is absolutely a strong team-mate,” the 65-year-old told German newspaper BZ
. “If Schumacher wants to win, he must destroy Rosberg because he's his biggest enemy.
“Schumacher always beat his team-mates, like [Johnny] Herbert, [Eddie] Irvine, [Rubens] Barrichello – and everyone thought they could be world champions.”