Di Montezemolo: 'Schumacher nearly came back to Ferrari in 2009'

Michael Schumacher (GER), Test Driver, Scuderia Ferrari with Luca di Montezemolo (ITA), Scuderia Ferrari, FIAT Chairman and President of Ferrari
© XPB 

Former Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has spoken of how Michael Schumacher was on the verge of returning to Ferrari in 2009.

The seven-time world champion had retired from racing Formula 1 in 2006, although he continued to act as a consultant to the team.

Then in 2009, Felipe Massa was seriously hurt during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix when he was hit on the helmet by a piece of flying debris. Ferrari urgently needed a replacement for the Brazilian while he recuperated.

It was di Montezemolo who hit upon the idea of tempting Schumacher back to the cockpit - although at first it looked like it was a non-starter.

"I was very sad when Felipe had this terrible accident in Budapest, so I asked Michael to come to my office," he said at the opening of the Schumacher exhibition in Cologne this week.

"I said to him, 'Listen Michael, you have to do that for me and for Ferrari - you have to come back'.

"For half an hour he could not be persuaded," continued di Montezemolo. "After an hour he said: 'Okay, I can not refuse this'."

The team had just four weeks to get Schumacher ready to get behind the wheel at the next race, the European Grand Prix at Valencia. Among the preparations were a stint in a two-year-old F2007.

"He went into the racing department and was full of enthusiasm, like a kid or a young driver," di Montezemolo recalled. "Then he went to Mugello and did a very good test with the old car."

But the plans came to a screeching halt when it emerged that injuries Schumacher has sustained in a recent motorbike accident were more serious than previously thought.

"Unfortunately his doctor had to stop him from returning," said di Montezemolo. "He said [Michael] was not ready, which was bad for all of us."

Luca Badoer was called up instead, and Ferrari subsequently agreed a deal with Force India for the services of Giancarlo Fisichella for the remainder of the 2009 season.

Massa returned to the seat in 2010 where he was joined by a new team mate at Maranello in the person of Fernando Alonso.

And with more time to recover from his motorbike accident, Schumacher was also back on the grid after three seasons away. Only it wasn't for Ferrari, but instead as part of an all-German line-up for the new Mercedes factory team.

He continued to race until 2012. At the end of that season he retired, and his place was taken by Lewis Hamilton.

Schumacher suffered a severe head injury while skiing in the French Alps with his son Mick in December 2013, and continues to recuperate at the family home on the shores of Lake Geneva.

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