Schumacher may yet stick his neck out

Seven-time champion does not rule out comeback if after-effects of biking injury can stand up to the stress of racing

In the ring of a telephone, Ferrari's prospects in next weekend's Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia went from sublime to ridiculous as Michael Schumacher had to tell the team's president, Luca di Montezemolo, that his much-vaunted Formula One comeback as Felipe Massa's stand-in had hit the skids.

The seven-time world champion, who retired at the end of 2006, injured his neck in a serious accident while testing a Honda superbike at the Cartagena circuit in Spain in February. "I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible. However, much to my regret it didn't work out," he said. "Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1 day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible. I am disappointed to the core."

All that has left Ferrari to fall back on test driver Luca Badoer, a journeyman Italian who has not raced in F1 for 10 years, has never scored a World Championship point and is further distinguished as the driver who has gone the longest – 48 races – without scoring. Interestingly, they have only committed to him for one race.

Schumacher's most intriguing comment was "my neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by Formula One yet". With Massa unlikely to return until the end of this season at the earliest, there may yet be a chance for him. While refusing to be drawn on whether he might race later this year after further work on his neck, perhaps at Monza where the strains might not be as harsh as in Valencia, Schumacher said: "Speculation in this business is pretty natural. Lots of people have their own opinions and thoughts but the fact of the matter is that I'm very disappointed not to do what I was looking to do. That's all that I'm really thinking about and have to digest somehow."

Jenson Button might be wishing he didn't have to race in Valencia, for the temperature there will be around 28C, way below what his sensitive Brawn needs to make its tyres work well enough to rebuff the threat of Red Bull. In the first seven races this season the championship leader scored 61 points to Sebastian Vettel's 29 and Mark Webber's 27.5; in the last three the respective scores have been nine, 18 and 24. At his current rate Webber will move ahead with three races left.

A major aerodynamic update in Hungary did not work, leaving Button to lament: "There is something not quite right. The other cars at the front are quicker but our car doesn't feel like it did three races ago." The teams' factories have, by agreement, been closed down over the summer break, so his chances of an improvement next weekend seem slim.

Nelson Piquet Jnr probably won't be in town either, even in his civvies, having been dumped by Renault in favour of Frenchman Romain Grosjean. Many who have long observed how Flavio Briatore treats Renault's second drivers – Johnny Herbert once told me how Flav merely curled his lip at him and walked away without a word when he had just won the Italian Grand Prix for him in 1995 – had a sly chuckle when the Brazilian launched a verbal rocket attack on his manager and boss as he went out the door.

"I feel a sense of relief for the end of the worst period of my career," he said. "The path to F1 was always going to be tricky, and my father and I therefore signed a management contract with Flavio Briatore, who we believed was an excellent option with all the necessary contacts and management skills. Unfortunately, that was when the black period of my career started. On numerous occasions, 15 minutes before qualifying and races, my manager and team boss would threaten me, telling me if I didn't get a good result he had another driver ready to put in my place.

"A manager is supposed to encourage you, support you and provide you with opportunities. In my case it was the opposite. Flavio Briatore was my executioner."

Yet you would be hard pressed to find anyone in the paddock who would disagree that the FIA stewards' decision to suspend Renault from the race next week (because of the loose wheel that stymied Fernando Alonso in Hungary) was plain ridiculous. With Honda long gone and BMW having left partner Peter Sauber high and dry after announcing their intention to withdraw, the last thing the sport needs is yet another manufacturer having second thoughts. For F1's sake, we should hope that crass ruling is thrown in the bin where it belongs when the team's appeal is heard in Paris tomorrow.

Sport's longest streaks

Luca Badoer: Italian has competed in most Formula One races (48) without scoring a point.

John Jensen: Danish midfielder arrived at Highbury in 1992 and infamously went 98 games before finding the net for Arsenal.

Gareth Bale: Spurs defender holds record for most games (24) without a Premier League victory.

Vince Spadea: American tennis pro lost 21 consecutive matches, finally breaking his duck in 2000.

San Marino: international football minnows are riding a five-year winless run, a 31-game streak dating back to 2004.

Rob Jones: former Liverpool stalwart defender never scored during 243 appearances for club.

Mark Pickering

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Voices
Left: An illustration of the original Jim Crowe, played by TD Rice Right: A Couple dressed as Ray and Janay Rice
voices

By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes