Flavio Briatore, the managing director of Benetton and owner of Ligier, probably feels the more experienced Herbert would be able to lend greater support to Schumacher's bid for the drivers' title and Benetton's aspirations in the team championship.
Herbert stood in yesterday for Jos Verstappen, who reportedly strained his neck in a spin during the European Grand Prix at Jerez on Sunday.
Herbert made his grand prix debut for Benetton in 1989, finishing fourth in Brazil, but he had not fully recovered from injuries sustained in a crash at Brands Hatch the previous summer and was sacked midway through the season.
He then spent four years with Tyrrell and Lotus before joining Ligier, who were taken over by Benetton at the start of this year.
Karl Wendlinger will make an equally unexpected comeback at Suzuka. The Austrian, who narrowly escaped death in a crash in Monaco in May, will be back with the Sauber team.
Wendlinger, who lay in a coma for more than three weeks after his practice accident, satisfied the Swiss team he was ready to return after a two-day session of private testing in Le Castellet, southern France.
'Those two days of testing have been very encouraging,' Peter Sauber, the team chief, said. 'His accident has left him with no sequel, neither psychological nor physical.'
Andrea De Cesaris, who has been Sauber's stand-in driver, has left the team.