Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo has conceded that he may to be blame for Michael Schumacher returning to Formula One with rivals Mercedes - but insists that he has no problem with the Scuderia's 2010 line-up.
The Italian used the occasion of Ferrari's launch of the F10 to accept that trying to coax Schumacher back into action as replacement for the injured Felipe Massa last season may have fired the seven-time champion's enthusiasm beyond what he thought possible. While trying to get a talent on board to accompany Kimi Raikkonen for the balance of 2009, di Montezemolo confessed that he never foresaw Schumacher leaving Maranello, even if a drive wasn't available this season.
"I like Schumacher and I am the author of this misdeed," the genial Italian sighed, "because it was me who awoke his desire to come back to racing. Honestly, I never thought I'd see him in a car that wasn't a Ferrari; one of the moments during which Michael was sad was at the beginning of August, when he called me because his doctor in Germany told him that the bone problem was still there. Now, though, he's a competitor, an opponent like many others.
"A third car could have been useful for Schumacher; it could be useful for some young champion who, as they say in soccer, plays in the minor leagues. I believe had the third car been there, with all respect to Mercedes, Schumacher would have been promoting not Mercedes', but Ferraris."
Insisting that he wasn't 'worried about the possibility that Schumacher might have taken material from our development', di Montezemolo added that he had no qualms about not making room for the German in his 2010 squad, having already committed to Massa and Fernando Alonso.
"When Ferrari decided, in 2005, to take Raikkonen, the alternative was Alonso, who now finds himself in a fundamental moment of his life," he commented, "He's matured, young and strong - and he has won two world championships, one in 2005 and one in 2006, beating us 100 per cent.
"We don't have any problem as far as our drivers are concerned. We have Massa, who is back with further enthusiasm, and we have Alonso. Then we have [Giancarlo] Fisichella as the third driver and two very experienced test drivers: Marc Gene and Luca Badoer."
Asked about Valentino Rossi's possible arrival at Ferrari, following a sixth F1 test for the Italian last week, di Montezemolo admitted that he would also have no problems fielding a car for the MotoGP champion in the right circumstances, but not necessarily a third car, as had been rumoured in recent months.
"He's a friend and an undisputed champion, from Emilia-Romagna, a great fan of F1 and engines, and also a potential F1 champion," the chairman admitted, "He's shown that he's good, that he's strong - we'll see what he has in his mind. If there was the possibility in 2011 and he wanted to do it and had the possibility for testing and adapting to F1, then why not? For the time being, let's wait and see what happens; we've never been in talks with him about this possibility.