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Motor Racing

Sources split on Schumacher return

As the F1 world finds itself embroiled in another "will he, won't he" scenario regarding a possible return by seven-time champion Michael Schumacher, sources close to him took slightly differing views yesterday.

His spokeswoman Sabine Kehm was adamant he would not make a comeback as Jenson Button's replacement at the Brawn team, since renamed Mercedes Grand Prix. The last time he planned a return was in July as the stand-in for injured Felipe Massa at Ferrari, and that was stymied by a neck injury.

"Michael is enjoying his life," Kehm said. "A return to Formula One is not a subject for debate at the moment. For me, a return would be highly unlikely."

Meanwhile, Schumacher's manager Willi Weber said guardedly yesterday: "I know that Michael spoke with Dieter Zetsche and Norbert Haug at the season's finale in Abu Dhabi," referring respectively to the CEO of Daimler AG, the parent company of Mercedes-Benz, and the vice president of motor sport at Mercedes, who gave Schumacher his big chance in sportscar racing early last decade.

Haug himself told Germany's Bild am Sonntag newspaper that such speculation would always be rife and that some of it was just dreams that would not come true. But he also said: "You will be surprised, but I think your readers will like our driver line-up."

It is inconceivable, however, that Mercedes would sign Schumacher, who turns 41 in January, without further testing to ensure that his damaged neck is up to the rigours of Formula One cornering and braking.