Michael Schumacher’s comeback-that-never-was, has drawn the attention in recent days and it was clear looking at his face and his body language at the Geneva press conference how disappointed he was.
There was a point to him coming back; Massa, his friend, was injured, Ferrari needed him, they want to finish third in the championship to salvage some respectability from a disappointing season and Schumacher’s presence in the car would have given some much needed airtime and exposure to their sponsors and backers. So it made sense for him to do it from many angles.
Sadly the comeback was allowed to take on a life of its own before he had cleared the medical hurdle with his doctors and here I’m slightly surprised that this was allowed to happen. Clearly there was sufficient doubt all along about the neck injury he had sustained for his people to sound the note of caution they did, but Schumacher himself must have been quite gung-ho about it to allow things to escalate as they did. The ‘no’ from the doctors was clearly a cold shower for him.
The idea of him coming back in future, either later this year or maybe next year in a third Ferrari seems more fanciful. Why would he do that, what would he have to gain from it? Does he think, as Lance Armstrong appears to have done, that the current field isn’t up to much and that a victorious comeback might be possible? Hardly.
Italian sources insist that Ferrari has Fernando Alonso under contract for the future, so it already has the ‘seasoned champion’ Montezemolo was talking about. And here one starts to wonder about Ferrari’s next move.
Giving Luca Badoer a run at Valencia is clearly a holding move by the team. Will Badoer still be in the car at Abu Dhabi? Perhaps not.
Behind the scenes the team has been looking for a way to strike a deal with Kimi Raikkonen to leave a year early, presumably so that Alonso can start racing for Ferrari in 2010. This has not been successful so far. So the problem it has been wrestling with was that if it wanted to run Alonso next year, which it has an option to do, it has three drivers for two cars; Massa, Raikkonen, Alonso.
However, if it became clear that Massa’s injuries were such that he would not be able to come back and race in 2010, then they could perhaps look at brokering a deal whereby Alonso would be drafted into the Ferrari alongside Raikkonen. The pair would then form Ferrari’s 2010 line up. BMW’s withdrawal at the end of this year means that Robert Kubica, who is likely to replace Alonso, might be able to negotiate an early move to Renault and then both teams would have the remaining races of 2009 in which to bed in their 2010 drivers. We’ve seen these kinds of deals done in the past.
But Massa’s condition is the key to it and, quite rightly, Ferrari will keep the door open for Massa for as long as it seems that his racing career will continue.
Rubens Barrichello’s latest twitter post on Massa’s condition sounded quite positive, but it was more of a ” he’s not as bad as he could have been” tone than a “he’ll be in the car again by Monza.”
We wish him well and watch the unfolding situation with interest.