Former Formula 1 World Champion Nigel Mansell believes that Michael Schumacher is capable of challenging for a record-breaking eighth drivers' title, should the 41-year-old conclude a deal to race with the Mercedes Grand Prix team in 2010.
Schumacher has informed Ferrari that there is a "very strong possibility" he will race for the re-branded Brawn GP team next year, thus rekindling his ultra-successful partnership with Ross Brawn, who remains at the helm of the works Mercedes effort.
While AUTOSPORT understands that a deal has been agreed to in principle with Mercedes, the seven-time champion's return hinges on him being cleared fit to drive after he sustained a serious neck injury in a superbike accident last February.
But Mansell, who scored his final grand prix victory at Adelaide in 1994 when he was 41, reckons that neither Schumacher's age, nor the fact that he hasn't raced a car for three years would affect his ability to challenge for race wins.
"It wouldn't surprise me if Michael challenged for another world title," the 1992 F1 World Champion told the Mail on Sunday. "It doesn't matter what age you are as long as you are professional, committed and focused. People have written Michael off as over the hill, I look at it differently.
"Michael has tremendous experience and talent, and Mercedes will provide him with a fantastic package. He is extremely fit and we can take his commitment and professionalism for granted."
Mansell added that Schumacher has nothing to lose by coming back, and that regardless of what he might achieve with Mercedes, the German's record and legacy would remain in tact.
"For me there is no downside to this," said Mansell. "He's won enough titles, so what does he have to worry about losing to anyone? It may take a few races to come to grips with his car, but after that it wouldn't surprise me if he was to challenge for his eighth title."