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BERLIN - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone says it would be wrong to write off Michael Schumacher following a comeback where he has been off the pace.
Ecclestone told Germany's Sport Bild published that the former seven-time world champion needed more time after a three-year absence from motor racing.
Criticism of the 41-year-old German has grown after four races with the new Mercedes GP team that have left him only 10th in the standings.
"Anyone who criticises Michael is making a mistake. He doesn't deserve that," Ecclestone said.
Schumacher finished 10th in the last race, last Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, and his best placing was sixth in Bahrain.
Meanwhile, he has been outshone in every qualifying session and race by teammate Nico Rosberg, who was on the podium in the past two races and is second overall behind reigning world champion Jenson Button.
Ecclestone said Schumacher's comeback with Mercedes was nonetheless "magic" for Formula One. The Mercedes, however, had not reached the standard of the Red Bull and Ferrari cars.
Asked why 25-year-old Rosberg was outperforming Schumacher, Ecclestone said: "Nico is very talented. But Michael has been on holiday for three years. Ask me this question again after another two races.
"At the moment I would say don't underestimate Michael."
Former F1 driver Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, said the criticism of his brother was too harsh.
"People, go easy with your criticism, stay fair," he told Bild newspaper. "Michael has always managed it and he'll do so again."
He said his brother had also had some bad luck with a technical problem in Malaysia and a collision in Melbourne. - Sapa-DPA