Mercedes quiet over Schumacher return

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The Independent Online

Nick Fry believes Michael Schumacher's return to Formula One would be "fascinating".

Mercedes GP chief executive Fry, however, refused to confirm whether his team were talking to Schumacher about a drive for next season despite intense speculation surrounding the seven-times world champion.

With Nico Rosberg already on board at Mercedes, who took over this year's champions Brawn GP, Fry merely stated the team were in talks with "a number of different drivers" and that there would unlikely be a decision until early January.

The name of Schumacher, however, refuses to go away and neither the 40-year-old nor his manager Willi Weber have so far issued any kind of public denial as to a possible return after three years away.

Assessing the merits of a possible comeback from Schumacher or 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve who has been linked with a drive with one of the new teams, Fry said: "I think whether it be Michael or having another prior world champion, it just adds another very interesting element.

"Can someone who's 40 or 41 years old compete against someone who is 24 years old?

"In other sports people have proven they're very capable even at that age, and I think that would add another fascinating aspect.

"It's irrelevant whether it's Michael or Jacques. I was joking with Mika (Hakkinen) the other day that maybe he should throw his hat in."

Experience, though, is crucial for Fry, pointing to the fact that Brawn's success in the constructors' championship was down to the partnership involving Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello.

"We learned very clearly this year you've got to have two drivers capable of scoring points in every race," added Fry, speaking to at the Motor Sports Business Forum in Monaco.

"The reason we won the constructors' championship is because we had that. Both drivers did a sensational job and they were both very similar to each other.

"We knocked in the points at virtually every single race, and you need that.

"With the lack of testing, it's very difficult to expect a younger driver to do that, so clearly highest on our list are people with F1 experience."

Fry, meanwhile, insists he has no axe to grind with Button despite the reigning world champion's defection to McLaren.

Fry appeared bitter after Button opted to sign for McLaren rather than remain with the team who had just helped him become champion.

Fry questioned Button's loyalty and added he was either brave or stupid in joining the Woking-based team and going up against Lewis Hamilton.

Reflecting on the situation now, Fry said: "I think it's going to be fascinating.

"I've had some nice chats with Jenson over the last few days at social functions and contrary to what people might think there's no hard feelings at all. We wish him all the best.

"We were disappointed that he left our team but we've got a good relationship."

Fry, though, still feels Button faces "a difficult task".

He added: "It's nothing to do with whether he's got the talent - which I think he has - it's all to do with going into a team where Lewis has been for a long time and knows the team very well.

"In my experience in Formula One, for a new driver to come into any team takes months or even most of the first season to really understand the lay of the land.

"That's quite difficult to do, and Jenson's a brave lad taking that on.

"He's got the raw skill to do it, but in terms of learning how the team works, he's going to have to accelerate himself up the line very quickly."