Record-breaking multiple world champion Michael Schumacher is probably 'past it now' and is only going to 'damage his achievements' by persisting with his thus far underwhelming top flight comeback with Mercedes Grand Prix in F1 2010 - that is the opinion of Sir Stirling Moss, who claims Nico Rosberg's form this year is only going to show that Schumacher was previously over-rated.

Although his return to the grid following three years away in retirement was hailed as a masterstroke for a sport that has been assailed by one crisis after another of late - and an opportunity to add to his incredible tally of 91 grand prix victories from 1991 to 2006 - over the opening four outings of the present campaign, Schumacher has failed to shine.

Whilst his young team-mate and compatriot Rosberg has collected 50 points, started from the front row of the grid and twice mounted the podium to sit an excellent second in the chase for the crown returning to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona early next month, the older German has yet to start any higher than seventh or finish any higher than sixth and lies a lowly ninth in the standings with just ten points to his name.

Even more ignominiously still for someone of his esteemed stature and reputation, the Kerpen native is one of only two drivers in the F1 2010 field to have been out-qualified by the man in the sister machine on every occasion to-date.

That has prompted many observers to question the wisdom of his audacious and much-hyped comeback, musing that his advancing years now at the age of 41 and his absence from the cockpit and the cut-and-thrust of racing at the highest level have dulled Schumacher's once so famously fierce competitive spirit and thirst for the fight - with some wondering whether he will even see out the season, let alone his three-year contract with Mercedes.

Whilst former sparring partner and title rival Mika Hakkinen has called for 'Schumi' to be given more time to re-adapt [see separate story - click here], Moss suggests the return was a mistake and that it has only served to highlight his belief that the most successful driver in F1 history never before had a team-mate as quick and determined as Rosberg is proving to be to genuinely put him under pressure.

"In a word, no," the British racing legend told Metro, when asked if he could understand Schumacher's decision. "He's a highly intelligent bloke, and I really can't see...all he's going to do is damage his achievements. People are going to say that he's past it now, which he probably is. We've never seen Michael with a 'number two' who has been comparable. He had Rubens Barrichello who no doubt is an extremely good driver, but not necessarily a winner.

"Michael's greatest contribution was bringing English engineers to Ferrari. Ross Brawn and those chaps brought Ferrari from being has-beens back to the front. Because he didn't have a truly competitive team-mate, it was very difficult to know how much of it was down Michael and how much was the car. People say he's the best because he has seven world titles, but that doesn't mean anything really. Well, it does mean something - it's a hell of an achievement - but it doesn't mean he's the greatest ever."

"People say it's because he's been away for three years and that sort of stuff, but I'm going to stick to what I said at the start of the season," the 16-time grand prix-winner added in a column on ESPN. "His seven world titles are, in my mind, misleading, and I think we are seeing proof of that now he is up against Rosberg. Rosberg has proved himself as the team's 'number one', and he's been faster than Schumacher in all circumstances.

"What's more, I'm not sure he is taking F1 as seriously as he was earlier in his career. You need a compulsion to be there; you can't just do it for fun, and I don't think Schumacher has that compulsion anymore. To win you need to believe that there is no way anybody else can beat you and, frankly, I don't think he's in that kind of mindset. It seems as though this year is just part of his retirement rather than an extension of his career."

The parallels between Schumacher's situation and Moss' past are intriguing, as in 1955 the then 25-year-old Englishman was paired up with the legendary Juan-Manuel Fangio at Mercedes in the marque's original 'Silver Arrows' incarnation, the Argentine at the time one year older than Schumacher is now.

On that occasion, however, the latter's infinitely greater experience saw El Maestro comfortably prevail by 40 points to 23 and four victories to just one as Fangio sped to the third of his five drivers' trophies in F1. Half a century on, it seems history might not be in the mood to be quite so kind.



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