The latest twist in the story of Michael Schumacher’s move towards a comeback is Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo saying that Ferrari’s consultancy agreement with Schumacher is not binding and they cannot hold him if he wants to race for “a competitor”.
Sources in Germany suggest that Schumacher was not prepared to move forward with the comeback unless Montezemolo gave it his blessing and perhaps this was the purpose of today’s interview with Reuters. Schumacher is due to meet the Ferrari president later this week, apparently. My sources in Italy and Germany are now adamant that this deal is going to happen.
There will be more from Montezemolo on this as he is hosting a lunch for media representatives from around Europe on Thursday. Although he has expressed reservations privately about Schumacher moving to a rival company, which has launched a supercar into the same sector as Ferrari, Montezemolo said that their agreement is “not binding”.
“You can’t work with a competitor and with us at the same time,” he added.
For all the momentum that this comeback story has gained, fueled by the German media primarily, there still seem to have been some important things which have not yet taken place. Schumacher has yet to clear his medical checks, has yet to approach Montezemolo about moving on, and sponsors with whom Schumacher has commitments in 2010 have not been approached about his release.
“I still haven’t spoken to him about it,” the Ferrari president said. “He is only a dear friend, not a team member. He is a consultant for our road cars.”
Bild newspaper in Germany says that Schumacher is yet to undergo his neck scan at the Bad Nauheim clinic he uses for all his medical activities and claims that Mercedes wants him to test a 2007 car, as he did with Ferrari, to check on the status of his neck. This could still be a stumbling block and Schumacher does not want a repeat of the summer where he announced the comeback then found he could not deliver. Bernie Ecclestone is quoted as saying, “Let’s hope it happens this time,” having been left disappointed by Schumacher’s no show in August.
Intriguingly, Schumacher did not attend Ferrari’s Christmas party at the weekend and according to Gazzetta dello Sport, Montezemolo spoke about Raikkonen, Massa and Alonso but did not mention Schumacher.
Meanwhile Mercedes has suffered a blow today with a sponsor it thought it had landed, Henkel, revealing that the team has been scammed by a rogue employee who was not empowered to strike a deal which would have been worth many millions to the team. Henkel is a German conglomerate, operating in a wide range of sectors from adhesives to hair care and laundry products.