Lauda backs Schumacher as Massa replacement

Three-time world champion Niki Lauda has backed Michael Schumacher to replace Felipe Massa, if the Brazilian cannot race next time out in Valencia.

Lauda says Schumacher is the only realistic choice, in the event that Massa is laid low with his skull and eye injury sustained during last Saturday’s Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying session.

“I ve no idea how Michael is mentally,” the 25-time grand prix-winner is quoted as having said by the Press Association, “but who else [is there]? Who is available? There is nobody available anywhere near Michael s performance. I was thinking about it, and there is nobody.

“[Luca di Montezemolo Ferrari President] needs to take a decision. For the whole business of Formula 1, which is ill anyway because nobody is coming, he (Schumacher) would improve it by 20 to 30 per cent interest but it is a question nobody can answer because nobody knows what Schumacher is doing. But who else is he going to ring?” said the ex-Ferrari and McLaren man, who himself made a comeback to the sport after having retired.

The Austrian legend was scathing about the possibility of Toro Rosso refugee Sebastien Bourdais driving a Ferrari.

“What do you want to do with Bourdais? I can drive! Honestly. Bourdais did not do anything in Formula 1 with Toro Rosso. He is a real waste of time. There is no way Ferrari would even consider him when he couldn t perform in a Toro Rosso against [Sébastien] Buemi. The problem is there is a lack of up-and-coming guys.”

And he also had no time for Ferrari’s current testers, ex-F1 men Luca Badoer and Marc Gene.

“The test drivers are useless, and there is nobody else here if you think about it. If he (Schumacher) doesn t want to do it, the idea is finished in the same second but if I was di Montezemolo I would call him.”

Despite there being a three week break before Valencia, it looks increasingly unlikely that Felipe Massa will be able to race. Although initial fears of brain damage appear to have receded, new speculation that the accident severely damaged Massa’s left eye has emerged.

Fernando Alonso, whose Renault team are currently banned from the next race, could well step into the breach at Ferrari, if he is contractually able.