ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Mercedes chief executive Nick Fry hopes Michael Schumacher will return to Formula One and drive for the German team next season.
German media reported last weekend that a deal had been struck to bring the country’s seven-time champion back to F1 with Mercedes, though Fry would not elaborate Tuesday.
"I can’t tell you at this stage, unfortunately," Fry said when asked point-blank about Schumacher. "The view from inside Formula One, not just in my team, is that they all hope it will happen.
"On Saturday night in Germany, the news that Michael might return was the first thing on and the Copenhagen climate talks was second. Not sure if they have their priorities right, but it shows the impact."
Ferrari, where Schumacher is now under contract as a consultant after winning five titles with the team as a driver, cleared the way Tuesday for him to make a comeback to the sport.
Fry made it clear that the 40-year-old driver was at the top of Mercedes’ wish list for next season, saying he would be "very good for our team."
However, he added: "A number of drivers are still available if Michael were to decide not to drive. Then there are alternatives that we would be happy to go with."
Schumacher retired in 2006 but flirted with a comeback in August to replace Felipe Massa after the Ferrari driver sustained life-threatening injuries in a crash at Hungary. Schumacher abandoned plans for the temporary return because of a neck injury from a motorcycle crash.
But with neck pains no longer a problem, German press reports over the weekend signaled the deal to pair Schumacher with newly signed Nico Rosberg was done, creating an all-German lineup that Fry labeled "formidable."
Fry also took a moment to let Rosberg know it was time to step up after a move from Williams to the new Mercedes team, which will replace Brawn GP next season.
"He’s done his apprenticeship and now he needs to start winning races," Fry said of the replacement for world champion Jenson Button.
Fry’s relationship with Button was "cordial" after the Briton left the Mercedes-powered Brawn GP to partner Lewis Hamilton at McLaren.
"I don’t fully understand his motivation," said Fry, who was speaking at the Arabian Sponsorship Forum. "(But) Jenson did want a new challenge. He was driven to win the championship and he’d achieved that."
Fry still works with Button at the team’s headquarters at Brackley, England, since he is under contract with Brawn through Dec. 31.
"I think he’s got a mighty task ahead of him and, in all fairness, good luck to him. To compete against Lewis on home territory is a big (thing) to take on," Fry said. "Lewis will have the advantage, he knows everybody while Jenson will have to try and settle into the team very quickly in the next few months. He still has to fit into a very complex environment."
Fernando Alonso left McLaren after one season because of an acrimonious relationship with Hamilton, feeling slighted by what he saw as favoritism toward the British driver. Hamilton won the championship after the Spaniard returned to Renault for the 2008 season.