Niki Lauda believes that the return of Michael Schumacher to Formula One has much to do with the regret that the German felt after retiring from the sport in 2006.
Lauda, the three-time world champion who also made a spectactular return to Formula One in the 1980s, reckons that Schumacher never truely wanted to leave the sport and is still bitten by the “racing bug”.
Schumacher, who will return to the cockpit in place of the injured Felipe Massa, has continued to actively race after his retirement from Formula One, competing in a number of German Superbike races.
“He was never able to detox himself of the racing bug, as we have seen with his on-track motorcycle activities. In my opinion he retired at the end of the 2006 season because he couldn’t see a real challenge – and probably he regretted his decision,” said Lauda in an interview with the official Formula 1 website.
“Now he’s got the unique chance to step in for the injured Massa to help his former team, and to find out for himself how competitive he still is. This is something that would also interest me, because this hunger for competition – for the adrenalin rush – never dies. It’s in our DNA.
“And the situation as it is now at Ferrari, with a recovering Massa and an available cockpit, gives him the chance to explore how far he’s off the top. That is a question that always puzzles a top driver like he was.”
In comparison to his own return which led to a third world championship, Lauda said that he expected Schumacher’s return to be nothing more than an test for his own personal satisfaction.
“I actually won the second race back after my retirement, but Michael is not racing for any championship. I came back because I wanted to win, if my comeback was successful. For Michael it’s nothing more than an interesting experiment.”
The Austrian also played down concerns about the fitness of Schumacher, with increased speculation surrounding the conditions of the German driver’s neck.
“Forget about the age,” added Lauda. “He is fit, he’s undergoing rigorous training and mentally he is taking up the challenge. He will do everything possible to be fit as a fiddle in Valencia.
“True, there are some obstacles that he has to overcome, like his unfamiliarity with the track and that he’s had no chance to test this year’s car, but that’s part of his challenge and that’s why he’s doing it. And that’s why the whole world will be watching.”