LONDON - Germany's seven-time Formula One champion Michael Schumacher will fail like so many other great sportsmen who have made comebacks, claimed top Australian driver Mark Webber yesterday.
Schumacher, 41, winner of 91 Grands Prix in 250 starts, returns to the sport after a three-year hiatus, at the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this week for the Mercedes team, but Webber is adamant that after the hype has died down reality will bite.
"I think it will be a bloody hard season for him (Schumacher)," the 33-year-old Webber told the Daily Telegraph. "I think he'll go all right but I have never ever seen a phenomenal comeback.
"When has the second career ever been better than the first?"
Webber, who broke his Grand Prix duck last year for the Red Bull team with victory in Germany and ended up a highest-ever fourth in the title race, was equally scathing about the new breed of drivers entering the fray.
"You don't look at these guys and think they are 'real men'," said Webber, who was always considered to be a great talent even when he was driving for minor outfit Minardi, Jaguar and the declining stable of Williams.
"They are talented, no question, but there is less in common.
"There is power steering now - a lot of things that make the cars easier to drive. That's why these youngsters can get away with it.
"I came through the categories with gear sticks and what have you. And that was beneficial for me. But there is no point whingeing about it. They come along and do a good job for the most part. some don't.
"But every now and again, whether it's a Lewis (Hamilton - the 2008 champion) or Seb (Vettel - Webber's teammate who was runner-up to Jenson Button last year), they can with phenomenal grooming, come in and do a good job."
Of late Webber has labelled the decision to allow the Hispania team to take part as "Mickey Mouse" and said it would have made more sense to have Italian motorcycling legend Valentino Rossi compete on his motorbike, believes that the young drivers should be taught the hard way.
"I won't hold their hand," said Webber, who has backed up his words by starting up a team for the GP3 feeder series along with Red Bull chief Christian Horner.
"For me, if someone is holding a silver spoon for you the whole way through, when you get to the top someone like Fernando (Alonso - Spain's two-time world champion) will rip you to smithereens. You have to have been in the back alleys."
Webber, bidding to become the first Australian world champion since Alan Jones in 1980, is clear that doubts as to whether he has the right stuff to come top of the class is like a red rag to a bull.
"It is all motivation for me," he said.
"I'll do my talking on the track." - Sapa-AFP