Under-fire F1 2010 returnee Michael Schumacher has received a vote of support from former grand prix sparring partner and title rival Mika Hakkinen, who insists the most successful driver in the sport's history will
win again – as he hinted at his own return to the top flight in a managerial capacity.
Schumacher has been widely slated by fans and media alike for his off-colour comeback to active competition at the highest level with Mercedes Grand Prix this year, having been roundly out-performed throughout the opening four outings by young team-mate and compatriot Nico Rosberg and having failed to start any higher than seventh or finish any higher than sixth – a far cry from the glory days of 91 race victories and an unparalleled seven world championship crowns between 1991 and 2006.
The detractors argue that at 41 years of age now and following three seasons away from the grid, 'Schumi' has lost his mojo and is no longer the driver who once ruled F1. With the pressure mounting, some are even suggesting that the German legend will fail to see out the current campaign, let alone the entirety of his three-year contract with the Stuttgart manufacturer – but Hakkinen warns against dismissing the man he beat to the trophy in 1998 and 1999 too lightly, even if the Finn acknowledges that the modern technical advances in the sport allied to Schumacher's similarly advancing years will not make his life any easier.
“I'm pretty certain that Schumacher will still win a race this season,” the 20-time grand prix-winner – considered by many to have been the Kerpen native's greatest adversary – is quoted as having said by ESPN
. “I know what drives him and how hard he works when he has set himself a goal, but it will be difficult for him. Formula 1 will not give him any time; it knows no mercy and allows you no excuses.
“He's not thinking about his reputation for a single second, but he will be upset if he does not manage to race according to his own expectations. That is the situation at the moment. This sport expects total concentration, which is difficult to achieve when you are 41. At that age, different things are important in your life.”
Meanwhile, Hakkinen has admitted that two-and-a-half years on from hanging up his racing helmet – following a successful 'second career' in pan-European touring car series the DTM – he still feels the pull of motorsport and is similarly eyeing a return, though in this case likely as a manger, being part of his own manager Didier Coton's Aces Management Group and having recently been linked with 2008 F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton after the McLaren-Mercedes star and his father/manager Anthony professionally parted ways earlier this year.
“I miss racing every day,” the 41-year-old confessed to German newspaper Bild am Sonntag
. “It's very close to my heart. I'll be back, but I don't know when or where – I just know that I will do it again. Perhaps I will come back to F1 as a manager.”