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August 12, 2009

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Injured Schumi puts the brakes on F1 comeback

MICHAEL Schumacher has called off his much-anticipated Formula One comeback because of lingering injuries from a motorcycling crash earlier this year.

The seven-time world champion was to fill in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, and hoped to return at this month's European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain.

Ferrari announced that team test driver Luca Badoer will race in Massa's place at Valencia.

Schumacher said on his Website he informed top Ferrari officials on Monday evening that "unfortunately I'm not able to step in for Felipe."

Schumacher, 40, retired at the end of the 2006 season. Since then, he has raced occasionally in a motorcycling series but was injured in a crash in February.

"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 said yesterday. "That is why my neck cannot stand the extreme stresses caused by Formula One yet.

"I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible. However, much to my regret it didn't work out," he added.

"Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck" which arose after he tested an old Ferrari at the Mugello circuit in Italy, Schumacher said.

The German won 91 races in 250 starts in an F1 career spanning 15 years from 1991.

"I am disappointed to the core. I am awfully sorry for the guys of Ferrari and for all the fans which crossed fingers for me," Schumacher said.

"All I can do now is to keep my fingers crossed for the whole team for the coming races."

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo thanked Schumacher for his loyalty to the team in attempting an F1 comeback.

"I am very unhappy that a problem means that Michael cannot return to racing," Montezemolo said. "In the past few days, I could appreciate his great efforts and extraordinary motivation which had spread through the team and fans around the world.

"No doubt his return would have been good for Formula One and I am sure it would have seen him fighting for wins again," he added. "In the name of Ferrari and all the fans, I wish to thank him for the strong attachment he displayed for the team in these circumstances."

Schumacher's younger brother, former Formula One driver Ralf Schumacher, said the pullout was "a great shame for everyone who had been looking forward to Michael's comeback." But he added that "it is absolutely clear that a burdensome Formula One commitment is not possible if (his) state of health does not allow it."

Schumacher's manager, Willi Weber, said the crash in February was "the most serious accident that Michael had in his motor sports career."

"Michael was totally fit, that would not have been a problem," he said. "But after the first test laps, there were no improvements in the area of the neck muscles."

Badoer, a 38-year-old Italian, was first floated by ltalian media after Massa's crash last month took him off the race circuit.

Montezemolo said Ferrari decided to give Badoer "the chance to race for the Scuderia after he has put in so many years of hard work as a test driver."

Last week Schumacher said he was slimming down for the race, but complained of some neck pain.


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