Michael Schumacher will not drive the Ferrari at the European Grand Prix on August 23rd, nor at any of the remaining races of 2009. The comeback is officially off. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo confirmed this morning that test driver Luca Badoer will take his place at Valencia, we will see what will happen at the remaining races.
As I posted here last week, Schumacher always said that his comeback was subject to passing medical tests on his neck, which he injured in a motorbike accident earlier this year. Everyone had got terribly carried away with the story and forgotten that there was a chance he wouldn’t be fit.
At the time the extent of his injuries was not given and when I asked his assistant Sabine Kehm last week about this she said that this had been deliberate, which indicated that perhaps they were more serious than merely bruising or a strain. He was moving stiffly in the neck and shoulders when he came to Grands Prix recently in his role as Ferrari consultant.
In his statement today on his website he says, “The consequences of the injuries caused by the bike-accident in February, fractures in the area of head and neck, unfortunately have turned out to be still too severe.”
‘Fractures’ explains the reason why he isn’t coming back and why Kehm was so keen to manage expectations last week when she said that the comeback was not certain, but subject to medical checks.
His test at Mugello recently was to evaluate his physical condition and to test his neck. He was due to test again this week, but clearly the medical examinations have revealed to him that it was not worth it. He said that the deal with his wife Corinna was that his health had to be the number one priority in any comeback and it is clearly the case that this could not be guaranteed should he race an F1 car in his current condition.
The statement on his website shows the depth of his regret, “I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn’t work out. Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private test in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible.
“I am disappointed to the core. I am awfully sorry for the guys of Ferrari and for all the fans which crossed their fingers for me. I can only repeat that I tried everything that was within my power. All I can do now is to keep my fingers crossed for the whole team for the coming races.”
The seat will be filled by Luca Badoer, the long time Ferrari test driver. This was confirmed by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo this morning as he expressed his disappointment that Schumacher would not race again,
“I am very unhappy that a problem means that Michael cannot return to racing,” commented Luca di Montezemolo. In the past few days, I could appreciate his great efforts and extraordinary motivation which had spread through the team and fans around the world. No doubt his return would have been good for Formula 1 and I am sure it would have seen him fighting for wins again.”
Badoer was passed over for the stand-in role in 1999, when Schumacher broke his leg. His presence in the car will make it more difficult for Ferrari to achieve its goal of third place in the championship.
Montezemolo’s comments about Schumacher and his ‘extraordinary motivation’ are aimed at Kimi Raikkonen, who now leads the Ferrari team and on whose shoulders their fortunes rest this season. The team needs him to step up and win a race for them this year. Raikkonen’s response on track will be interesting to monitor.