Michael Schumacher has revealed that he and Ferrari tried everything they could to make it possible for him to return to F1 for the European Grand Prix in Valencia next weekend - as observers argue it would be wise never to say never with regard to a comeback for the record-breaking seven-time world champion in 2009.

In the wake of Felipe Massa's qualifying accident in Hungary late last month - with a blow to the head leaving the Brazilian hospitalised for nine days in intensive care and requiring emergency surgery to a skull fracture and serious eye injuries - Schumacher was announced as the man who would replace his former team-mate until the S?o Paulista was well enough to drive again.

However, a lingering neck injury of his own - sustained following a motorbike fall at Cartagena in Spain back in February, from which Bild newspaper reports Schumacher 'was lucky he did not have to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair' as he fractured bones in both his head and his neck and damaged an artery supplying blood to the rear of his head - has subsequently forced the German legend to abandon his plans. A testing outing to re-acclimatise himself to F1 ahead of his return resulted in the unfortunate conclusion that his neck would not stand up to the intense pressures and strains of a grand prix.

Schumacher has admitted that he was disappointed not to be able to follow through with his comeback, and insisted that he could not have prepared any better for his return to the cockpit as nobody could have predicted the situation that befell Massa.

"Nobody knew we would have this tragic accident for Felipe, so it wasn't planned at all," the 91-time grand prix-winner is quoted as having said by the BBC. "I don't think there was any other chance to do it any other way.

"No simulation can produce the demands an F1 car puts on the body, so we needed to test to find out. We did everything in the most prepared way possible, and it didn't work out."

Whilst urging that the possibility of a future return to action - Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has evoked the notion of running Schumacher in a third car in 2010, should the FIA choose to pursue the three-car teams route [see separate story - click here] - is not at the forefront of his mind at the moment, two of his compatriots have hinted that nothing is out of the question.

"Constant speculation in this business is pretty natural," acknowledged the 40-year-old in a press conference. "Lots of people have opinions, but the matter of fact is I'm very disappointed not to do what I was looking to do. It (a future return) is certainly not something I'm thinking about right now, as I just had to take a very tough decision to say no to what I wanted to do.

"If I understood my doctor correctly, there is no purely medical reason to stop me [from returning in the future]. There are no reasons why it couldn't happen at some point, but I don't feel like thinking too much about the future right now."

"It could take three weeks, three months or three years until everything is healed," added his doctor Johannes Peil, quoted in Bild. "Perhaps it will never be fully healed. A life-threatening injury or disability were both possible [following the motorcycling fall]. We were very worried. One of the two arteries going to the brain was destroyed.

"With hindsight it was his worst crash. He will be able to practice sport again, but I would not disapprove if motorbikes were nowhere in sight."

"I would not rule out a comeback for Michael totally - perhaps next year, if he is able to recover from his injuries completely," countered 1970s racer Hans-Joachim Stuck, whilst fellow ex-grand prix ace Christian Danner went even further in suggesting that 'perhaps he'll be at Monza'.

In the meantime, Schumacher has relinquished the reins to long-time Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer, a man who has not competed at the highest level since 1999, and who has the unenviable record against his name of most F1 starts without managing to score a point. Memories remain of the luckless Italian crying his eyes out beside his Minardi after his car's gearbox let him down whilst sitting comfortably in an excellent and unheralded fourth place with just 13 laps left to run in the European Grand Prix at the N?rburgring in his final year.

The Italian, though, has been rewarded for the unstinting loyalty he has shown to the Scuderia over the past decade - and in the face of some cynicism, Schumacher is adamant that the former International F3000 (now GP2) champion is up to the task.

"He has prepared himself quite strongly to be ready all these years," the Kerpen native contended. "This is his main job, to be ready for testing as well as in case something happened, so he's not been sitting quietly around waiting.

"He has worked very hard since the accident of Felipe as I said I needed to confirm that I could do it (fill in for Massa), so it's normal for him to keep himself at the fitness level he would need. He has not been racing for a long time, but a racer doesn't normally lose the racing spirit, so I wish him well for a difficult task."