Alain Prost has again cast doubt on Michael Schumacher's decision to return to F1, insisting that the German is unlikely to ever sample the heights he enjoyed at the peak of his career.
The Frenchman, himself a four-time champion in his time with McLaren and Williams, has been a frequent critic of Schumacher's since the German made the decision to return with Mercedes in 2010 [see here
, and refused to relent when interviewed by Swiss newspaper Le Matin
at the weekend.
Although Schumacher hopes to erase a tough 2010 campaign - in which he returned after three years 'retirement' to find a new breed of F1 machine - by stepping up his performance in an all-new Mercedes fitted with Pirelli tyres, Prost remains sceptical that the seven-time champion will be able to fight at the front. Schumacher finished the year strongly, but the improved results were not enough to counter a slow start that eventually left him ninth overall, two place and 70 points adrift of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, with a highest finish of fourth.
"It's a personal decision and I respect his choice but, now, in sport, I think it's impossible, at his age, to be back to where he was before," the 55-year old explained, "However, I hope he proves me wrong..."
Despite his own age, Prost knows how hard it can be to lose the competitive edge, having entered - and won - the Trophee Andros ice racing series over the past few years. While he explains that there is little risk involved in his latest career choice, the veteran - who also drove for Renault and Ferrari, and owned the eponymous Prost team during his lengthy involvement with the top flight - admits that he has no hankering to be back in F1 even if the odd run in a modern car wouldn't go amiss.
"What's the point of doing something when you know that you won't be able to experience the sensations you've known before?" he asked, no doubt considering Schumacher's plight as much as his own reality, "If you're behind, it's awful.
"I'd be happy to do some laps with a modern car, but only to assess technology developments such as paddleshifts, traction control, things that have always fascinated me. We must not lose sight of the history, heritage and culture and F1 must remain a sport, a show, but there cannot be a ban for testing new technologies. People who think that F1 is useless are wrong. Look at today's engines, compared with five years ago, they consume much less, and that's thanks to the race car.