Michael Schumacher’s comeback at the wheel of the Ferrari F60 in Valencia is not a racing certainty according to his spokeswoman, Sabine Kehm.
The seven times world champion will go through medical tests on his neck next week, to assess whether a comeback is possible. Schumacher admitted that his neck, which he injured in a motorcycle accident earlier this year, was “pinching” after his test of the 2007 F1 car last week at Mugello.
The purpose of that Mugello outing was more physical than anything else and there will be more outings next week. The 2007 car is so different from the 2009 car there is nothing he can gain in driving or set up terms, but it is the only place where he can really evaluate his neck and even train it, as there isn’t a piece of training equipment which simulates what happens to the neck when driving an F1 car.
Kehm told the German media today, ” It is not sure quite yet that the neck holds and the comeback can be started. It depends on medical investigations. Only after those will it be clear whether he will be able to drive.”
I rang her up this afternoon for a chat about the situation and it seems that everyone has got very carried away with the story of the comeback, with Bernie Ecclestone saying that he will show the youngsters the way home and so on, people have forgotten that Schumacher said at the outset that he would do it only if the doctors cleared him to race. Although he is “really into it” and training like mad, there is a small percentage chance that the doctors will say that his neck is not strong enough and they want to manage expectations.
The date of the medical checks will not be announced, because it would turn into a media circus, as it did in 1999 when he broke his leg and there was a scene whenener he turned up at hospital for a check-up.
Schumacher’s problem is specifically related to the bike accident he suffered this year and when I last saw him at a Grand Prix, in Germany, he was still moving stiffly.
But he also has a history of neck and back problems, going back to the 2005 season. It was not widely known about at the time and I was surprised when I learned about it while preparing my biography of him.
It not only affected his driving that year, but more importantly, it limited his physical training too, one of the cornerstones of his approach to racing. It contributed to his feeling that 2006 was the right time to retire.
The neck injury he received this year has been stabilised to the point where he is able to do the normal things in life, but to race an F1 car in back to back Grands Prix at Valencia and Spa will be a serious challenge and he will not do it if the doctors say that it is ill advised.
“My health is the priority, ” said Schumacher. “That’s the clear arrangement made with Ferrari and with my wife too.”