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Michael Schumacher close to Mercedes deal, say Ferrari

By Jonathan Legard
BBC F1 commentator

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo
Schumacher and Di Montezemolo shared years of success

Michael Schumacher has told Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo he is planning a comeback with Mercedes.

It is the first time anyone close to the German legend has confirmed he is actively pursuing a return, which has been rumoured for weeks.

"I spoke to him [on Wednesday] and he told me there is a very strong possibility but that it's not 100% decided," Di Montezemolo said.

He said a return by Schumacher, 41 in January, would be "good for F1".

Schumacher retired at the end of 2006 after winning five world titles with Ferrari in consecutive years from 2000-4, to add to the two he won with Benetton in 1994-5.

BBC Sport pundit Eddie Jordan revealed last month that Schumacher had had talks about a comeback with Mercedes and that it would probably happen - and now Di Montezemolo has confirmed it.

A lot of fans will think Michael is a traitor but I will explain to them it is not Michael but another one

Luca di Montezemolo
Ferrari president

"A guy called Michael Schumacher told us at Monza (in September) he would renew his (Ferrari consultancy) contract," Di Montezemolo said. "And it looked like his career would finish with Ferrari.

"But then there's another one who looks like him, 40, 41 yrs old, German, same name and decided to do a new career.

"Everybody in life can do what they prefer, and I understand that there is somebody at 41 years who wants to try again.

"So I think it's possible this twin, another Michael Schumacher, same age, same capability, some determination and spirit, will drive for Mercedes next year."

Di Montezemolo said Schumacher had been "destroyed" when it emerged he would not be able to make a temporary return to F1 with Ferrari last summer as a stand-in for the injured Felipe Massa because of a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle accident last winter.

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso
Ferrari believe they can handle Massa and Alonso as team-mates

"He phoned me, and he was so sad. He said: 'Listen, the doctor says I cannot do anything because I still have a problem with the neck.

"That day, Michael was not sad, (he was) more than sad. He was destroyed.

"Of course, I will have a lot of fans on our website very upset. They think Michael is a traitor. But I will explain to them it is not Michael but another one.

"As a friend, it is difficult for me, but I'm happy to see somebody so fit and with such big determination.

"As chairman of Ferrari, I'm so sad. He received a lot from Ferrari, and he has given a lot to Ferrari. I think the combination in the good and the bad moments was very, very good.

"This is the reason why I think we have to accept there is another Michael who is wanting to race. The real Michael is still with Ferrari."

Schumacher still has to have medical tests on his neck injury before he can confirm a return, and Di Montezemolo said he expected a decision to be made public "at the end of December or the beginning of January".

Massa has recovered from the fractured skull he suffered at the Hungarian Grand Prix and will be driving for Ferrari again in 2010 alongside their new signing, double world champion Fernando Alonso.

Di Montezemolo admitted that Ferrari had been "affected psychologically" by Massa's crash, adding: "For many days, we were very worried for the possible recovery of the man and then the driver."

Massa has completed a test in a 2007 Ferrari this week, and Di Montezemolo said the team "strongly believe he'll again be very, very quick".

JONATHAN LEGARD BLOG

Alonso will arrive at Ferrari with a reputation for being difficult to manage if the team does not focus on him - a legacy of his tumultuous season as Lewis Hamilton's team-mate at McLaren in 2007.

But asked if Ferrari could handle such a dominant personality, Di Montezemolo said: "Yes we can manage him, for three reasons.

"First, I spoke about these elements with (team principal Stefano) Domenicali 1000 times, not 100, and I spoke with Alonso.

"I told him: 'If you come to drive for us, because we want you, you drive for a team, you drive for a group, you don't drive for yourself.

"If you want a team, then you do your own team, fantastic, like John Surtees. In Ferrari we want to put you in the best condition to win. If not, we will never hire you.

"We know that you can win the championship. We will do our best but you are part of it.' I spoke with him and he knows how to handle it.

"Second - and I'm proud for this - for many years, you have not seen any more polemics inside Ferrari.

Alonso is a very intelligent guy, very focused, and he understands that even during the past, he made some mistakes

Luca di Montezemolo

"The only time was once with (Rubens) Barrichello when we asked him to (play second fiddle to Schumacher) but this was because Michael was in condition to win the championship and sometimes this is important.

"But I am for team spirit, like in soccer, like in cycling. This is sport.

"The third reason is he's a very intelligent guy, very focused and he understands that even during the past, he made some mistakes, just as both Michael and I have done in our lives."

In a wide-ranging interview with a selection of British, Italian, Spanish and German journalists, Di Montezemolo addressed a number of other topics.

He backed world champion Jenson Button's decision to join McLaren as Hamilton's team-mate, saying: "Hamilton in McLaren is good motivation for him".

He said he backed the current drive to cut costs in F1 - but that it should never become a championship where all the cars were close to identical, adding that Ferrari would stay in the sport "until Formula 1 isn't Formula 1".

He questioned some of the current organisation of F1, saying the sport's stakeholders needed to look into issues such as whether the races were too long, ticket prices were too high, and its lack of engagement with the internet.

And he set out a vision for F1, which he believed "can play an important role for technology, ecology, environment, fuel consumption".



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see also
Mercedes eager to sign Schumacher
15 Dec 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari clear way for Schumacher
14 Dec 09 |  Formula 1
Mercedes want Schumacher - Jordan
20 Nov 09 |  Formula 1
Mercedes takes over Brawn F1 team
16 Nov 09 |  Formula 1


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