schumi set for return

LONDON - Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher could come out of retirement to fill in for the injured Felipe Massa in next month's European Grand Prix in Valencia.

LONDON - Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher could come out of retirement to fill in for the injured Felipe Massa in next month's European Grand Prix in Valencia.

That intriguing possibility was raised yesterday by the Ferrari legend's spokesperson four days after Massa's horrific high-speed crash in qualifying runs for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

The Brazilian is recovering in hospital in Budapest after undergoing surgery on a fractured skull, leaving Ferrari looking for a stand-in, possibly for the remainder of the 2009 season.

Schumacher, who retired in 2006, is on Ferrari's payroll yet made it clear in an interview at the German Grand Prix a fortnight ago that he was not interested in making a full-time comeback.

But a temporary return, his spokesperson told the BBC, was a different matter altogether.

"The whole thing will be considered by Ferrari. If they approach Michael, then he will consider it," Sabine Kehm told BBC Sport.

"Usually, I would say he's not interested because he's fine with his life and he doesn't miss anything but now the situation is so different - it's very hypothetical - and Michael doesn't want to step into that (discussion)."

One factor against Schumacher lining up in Valencia on August 23 is his fitness after a motorcycle accident in February left him with a neck injury.

"I really can't tell you if his neck would be fine to drive an F1 race," Kehm said.

"If Ferrari asked him whether he would consider driving, he would have it checked - and remember he is a 40-year-old man, too."

Among other names mentioned to replace Massa, albeit an outside chance, has been that of Fernando Alonso, who it is rumoured is poised to join Ferrari in 2010.

Alonso's team Renault are banned from racing in Valencia after the French outfit were accused of not respecting security regulations when a wheel flew off Alonso's car in Budapest. - Sapa-AFP

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