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'Schu' puts brakes on his return
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Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has cancelled plans of a temporary return to Formula One with Ferrari because of fitness concerns, the German driver said yesterday.

The 40-year-old was due to stand in for the injured Felipe Massa, but with a neck problem suffered in a motorcycle accident earlier this year still causing him pain during testing, Ferrari have given the seat to veteran test driver Luca Badoer.

"I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret, it didn't work out," he said in a statement on his website (www.michael-schumacher.de).

"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."

Schumacher, who retired in 2006, had been expected to return at the European Grand Prix on Aug 23 while Massa continues his rehabilitation from a fractured skull, but the German conceded defeat in his battle to get fit for the Valencia race.

"The consequences of the injuries caused by the bike accident in February, fractures in the area of head and neck, unfortunately have turned out to be still too severe," Schumacher added.

"That is why my neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by Formula One yet. These are the clear results of the examinations we did on the course over the past two weeks and the final examination yesterday (Monday) afternoon."

Ferrari admitted that Schumacher's withdrawal was a disappointment, before moving quickly to appoint experienced test driver Badoer as Massa's replacement.

The 38-year-old Italian started 49 races for Scuderia Italia, Minardi and Forti without scoring a point between 1993-99, his last competitive drive coming at the Japanese Grand Prix two months short of a decade ago.

"I'm very sorry about the problem that will stop Michael returning to racing," Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said in a statement.

"His return would surely have done F1 good and I'm certain we'd have seen him fighting for victory again. I want to thank him in the name of Ferrari and all the fans for the attachment to the team he has shown in these circumstances.

"In agreement with (team principal) Stefano Domenicali, we have decided to give Luca Badoer the chance to race with the team after many years of precious work in the role of tester."

Schumacher's surprise return to F1 after retiring almost three years ago was seen as a major boost to the circuit in a scandal-ridden season dominated by breakaway threats, legal challenges and accusations of cheating.

(Reuters via China Daily August 12, 2009)

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