Bernie Ecclestone may have welcomed the extra attention Michael Schumacher's return to F1 produced in 2010, but admits that the German could have made a better choice of team.
Schumacher was tempted out of a three-year retirement by the prospect of linking up with Mercedes, the marque which had backed him as he made his name in sportscars, but the success that both had enjoyed in the early 1990s failed to materialise in the more competitive F1 arena.
Although team-mate Nico Rosberg managed a breakthrough win at this year's Chinese Grand Prix, Schumacher was restricted to a single podium appearance in three seasons with the Brackley-based team, and clearly showed that he had lost a step during his lay-off.
Ecclestone, with the benefit of 58 races from which to form an opinion, now claims that the seven-time champion made the mistake of expecting the Three Pointed Star – which took over the 2009 championship-winning Brawn operation - to be a force.
"With hindsight, Schumacher shouldn't have started," he was quoted by ESPN
, “I suppose, when he went there, he expected the team to do a lot better than they have.”
Asking how the German would have performed 'if he was in a Red Bull or a Ferrari' is a little spurious of Ecclestone as neither had a vacancy at the time of his return – and neither subsequently considered him when negotiating with Mark Webber and Felipe Massa respectively – but the F1 ringmaster believes that Schumacher would have called it quits at the end of 2012 regardless of results.
The former Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari driver was apparently offered an extension with Mercedes during the summer, but prevaricated, allowing Ross Brawn and Norbert Haug to swoop for Lewis Hamilton when the Briton revealed that he could be available for 2013. Ecclestone, however, insists that not signing immediately was an indication that Schumacher was considering his future.
"I think he was going to go anyway,” the 82-year claimed, “Hamilton had a number of options."
Schumacher, having tried his hand at motorcycle racing during his last retirement, now appears determined to become competitive in the altogether different discipline of 'reining', having bought a ranch in Texas shortly before the USGP.