schumi shelves plan to return

BERLIN - Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has cancelled plans for a temporary return to Formula One with Ferrari because of fitness concerns.

The 40-year-old was due to replace the injured Felipe Massa but with a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle accident earlier this year still causing him pain during testing, Ferrari have given the seat to experienced test driver Luca Badoer.

"I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn't work out," said the German.

"Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1 Day in Mugello (last week).

"Medically and therapeutically we tried everything possible."

Schumacher, who retired in 2006, had been expected to return for the European Grand Prix on August 23, while Massa continued his rehabilitation from a fractured skull, but the German conceded defeat in his battle to get fit for the Valencia race.

"The consequences of the injuries caused by the bike accident in February, fractures in the area of head and neck, unfortunately have turned out to be still too severe," Schumacher said.

"That is why my neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by Formula One yet. These are the clear results of the examinations we did over the past two weeks and the final examination yesterday afternoon."

Mercedes, who own 40percent of the McLaren team and provide engines to Brawn GP and Force India, said Schumacher's withdrawal was bad news.

"This is a bitter disappointment for everyone who was looking forward to Michael's comeback," said the vice-president of Mercedes motorsport, Norbert Haug.

"But health, of course, has priority over everything. That is clear."

Ferrari said Schumacher's withdrawal was a blow before moving quickly to appoint Badoer as Massa's replacement. - Reuters