Alain Prost has suggested that Michael Schumacher’s decision to abandon his Formula One comeback was more to do with the damage he might do to his reputation, should he prove uncompetitive, than any physical injury to his neck.
Schumacher was set to make a historic return to grand prix racing at next week’s European Grand Prix in Valencia, substituting for the injured Felipe Massa, but the seven times world champion was forced to abandon the comeback because simulation runs showed that his neck, which he injured during a motorcycle accident at the beginning of the year, would not withstand the forces of a modern Formula One car.
Prost, three times a F1 world champion, who made his own comeback in 1993 for Williams having sat out most of the 1992 season after being fired by Ferrari, reckons that the real reason Schumacher called off his return to the cockpit was because of the risk of being uncompetitive and the damage that would do to his highly successful, if not controversial, reputation.
“It is questionable whether he only called his comeback off because of health problems,” Prost told the French newspaper Parisien.
“Perhaps, when he climbed back into the cockpit, he realised that there was an enormous task ahead of him. The body changes very fast when one stops driving, the reactions and awareness dull, [and] he has not driven an F1 car for three years, and had only three weeks of preparation [following Felipe Massa’s injury].”
Schumacher’s entourage have rubbished the claims. Willi Webber, Schumacher’s manager said: “Unfortunately, I must disappoint Mr Prost.”
“Michael’s times in testing at Mugello suggested different – his decision to call off his return was due only to the neck problem. He can now continue to work on his fitness in peace, without the pressure to prove anything. Perhaps then we will see the times.”