No way back? F1 comebacks

Now here at Autoblog we're not ones to kick a man when he's a down - except perhaps when that man is Michael Schumacher.

Next weekend the former Ferrari messiah lines up for his fifth Grand Prix since returning to F1 with a mere 10 points to his name. In Schumi-world, that is not exactly the sort of return a man of his calibre would have expected. So, has he made a mistake?
Well, most of his compatriots believe so. In a survey conducted by German research company, Promit, 63.5% of respondents thought Schumacher senior had made a mistake in returning after four years out of action. If Ralf has read the results from the Dortmund-based company, hopefully it will put paid to his thoughts on also making a return. Of course, he has that extra problem of not actually having being offered a drive anyway.

Fomer team-mate Jos Verstappen wasn't too complimentary about Schumacher's season either: "What we are seeing is that Schumacher is an ordinary man of flesh and blood and that even he cannot conduct magic".

All of which has got us thinking; are there any precedents in F1 that he ought to have taken notice of?

First away from the grid is Alan Jones. The 1980 world champion quit the sport in 1981 after falling out with his Williams team-mate Carlos Reutemann but decided to return two years later with the Arrows team.

After breaking his leg in a riding accident, the Australian's comeback was delayed until the GP at Long Beach. Even taking his broken leg into account, it was pretty clear that Jones wasn't exactly in peak physical condition. He eventually retired from the race and appeared just one more time for Arrows before calling it a day.

Fitness was aagain an issue for another high profile return to F1. Nigel Mansell quit Williams (is there a pattern forming here?) and the sport after claiming the 1992 world title and heading off to the USA to take the Indycar series by storm. He returned to the team a year later to stand in after the death of Ayrton Senna, raced three times and won one of them.

So far, so good, but a full-time return in 1995 with McLaren fared rather worse. Never enjoying a close relationship with team boss Ron Dennis his cause wasn't helped when he couldn't fit in the car. Once he had squeezed in, he raced twice before deciding enough was enough.

Jacques Villeneuve's comeback was another that failed to set the world alight but for all the poor returns, others have proved far more successful; Niki Lauda is probably the shining example. Not only did he overcome terrible burns in 1977, he was back in F1 after quitting in 1979 to launch his airline. He had to wait a couple of years but in 1984 he won his third world title to universal acclaim.

Are any of these likely to give Schumi cause for concern? Possibly to his reputation but for Schumacher that's probably the point. Whether anything less than success wil satisfy him is debatable but if his Mercedes team doesn't start to deliver soon, we may see another F1 legend quietly slip away from view. And whatever you think of Schumacher that's a poor finale for a world champion.
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