Schumacher grateful for Ferrari support

Michael Schumacher expressed his disappointment at not being able to race for Ferrari in this month's European Grand Prix in Valencia, but thanked the team for giving him their backing.

Schumacher agreed to step into the cockpit to replace Felipe Massa, who was left with serious head injuries after being struck by a spring off Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP car during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix,

But the German's bid to return to Formula One has been dashed due to a previous neck injury.

The 40-year-old injured his neck during a fall from a motorbike in February and has not recovered enough to sit in the Ferrari cockpit in just over 10 days' time.

"First of all I would like to express my regret that I have to be here, but my first wish is to thank the lads at Ferrari who have been extremely supportive of me in this phase and to whom I am extremely sorry," he told a press conference today.

"I would also like to say a huge thanks to all the fans who have motivated and supported me more than I could have dreamed of."

Schumacher recently tested Ferrari's F2007 on the Tuscan circuit of Mugello in preparation for his return in Valencia, but he realised afterwards his neck was not yet strong enough to deal with the strains of a Grand Prix weekend.

He had discussed his potential return with his doctor before and after the tests in Mugello and they decided the only way to know would be to sit in the car and see how the neck reacted.

The results have led to Schumacher having to call off his Formula One comeback.

"I was happy to drive and help our team with all the emotion and motivation that I have and with full engagement, but then it has not worked out," he explained.

"It is only when a driver sits in such a Formula One car that you can gather the information on whether it is possible or not.

"We have not made a secret about my motorcycle crash and we said from the very beginning that we would check the situation with these tests in Mugello.

"The doctor told me before that this test would be decisive and obviously we needed a bit of time afterwards to see how it developed and only after that we could make a definitive analysis and answer."

Ferrari's test driver Luca Badoer will now race alongside team-mate Kimi Raikkonen in Spain and Schumacher says there is no better driver to step in.

"Badoer has been in the sport for as long as me, if I remember rightly, and he has been a test driver for us with the task of being fit and ready for this kind of situation," he said.

"He is the one who knows the team the best, knows all the procedures, the engineers and the details of the car so he is the perfect solution in my eyes."

Schumacher was coy on a potential return to Formula One if he makes a complete recovery from his neck injury, insisting: "Speculation is in this business all the time, but of course it is not an issue I am currently dealing with."

He instead preferred to think of seeing Massa back in a Ferrari as soon as possible.

He said: "Of course I am in constant contact with Felipe, not because we are colleagues but because we have been friends privately for a long time.

"We spoke yesterday and he is good and motivated to get back as soon as possible.

"He is looking forward to getting back into the car. The real positive about this whole thing is that he is so well after this dangerous accident."