Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo says his company would not prevent Michael Schumacher from racing for Mercedes in Formula 1 if he wished to do so, but added that the German had not yet discussed any such situation with him.
Reports in Germany over the weekend suggested that Mercedes was on the brink of securing Schumacher for its new factory F1 program next season, in a sensational move that would bring the seven-time World Champion back into the sport three years after he retired. Schumacher has been with Ferrari since 1996 and stayed on as a consultant and occasional test driver after his F1 career ended.
Although he intended to make a comeback this summer to fill in for Felipe Massa at Ferrari, a lingering neck injury prevented this. He was set to remain with Ferrari to work mainly with its road car division, but rumors of a Mercedes F1 deal threw this agreement into doubt. When asked by the Reuters news agency if Ferrari would insist that Schumacher be kept to his deal, di Montezemolo replied: "No, not binding."
The Italian added that Schumacher would have to split from Ferrari if he wanted to race for a rival company, but said there had been no approach from the German yet.
"It's clear that if he decides to take another road our agreement will no longer be valid, that is logical," di Montezemolo told the news agency. "You can't work with a competitor and with us at the same time. I still haven't spoken to him about it. He is only a dear friend, not a team member. He is a consultant for our road cars."
Although team co-principle Nick Fry said last week that the identity of Mercedes' second driver was unlikely to be announced before the new year, the German media is predicting that a Schumacher-Mercedes deal could be announced as early as this week. Mercedes has already signed Nico Rosberg for its other car.