Piero Ferrari has dismissed suggestions that Michael Schumacher is betraying Ferrari by making a Formula 1 comeback with Mercedes. The son of company founder Enzo Ferrari believes the Mercedes move was a pragmatic one as Ferrari had no spare seats, rather than a snub to the team Schumacher had been with since 1996.
"It's true that we were a bit disappointed, because Michael had become our symbol," Ferrari told Gazzetta dello Sport. "I wouldn't use that expression [betrayal], even though obviously we would have preferred him to stay with us. But he wanted to race and the conditions weren't there for him to do it once again with Ferrari."
Ferrari is sure that Schumacher is still quick enough to make a successful comeback even though he is now in his 40s. "His competitiveness will depend on the car," said Ferrari. "Another great driver, Mario Andretti, had carried on racing until he was over 50. Schumi was and remains a phenomenon. Drivers like him come only once every 10 years."
He insisted that Ferrari had no reason to consider moving either of its 2010 signings Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa aside to accommodate Schumacher.
"No, because I never believe in comebacks in sport, and I mean coaches and footballers who go back to a team where they had coached or played before. Time goes on," he said. "And besides, we have hired (Fernando) Alonso, who didn't become World Champion by chance, and in fact he has already challenged and beaten Michael before. And then we have (Felipe) Massa, who has matured next to Michael himself.
"I'm convinced that, if we are able to build a good car – the 2009 one wasn't very good – we'll get some satisfaction. In other words, we won't lose races and the title because of the drivers."
Ferrari believes his legendary father would also have accepted Schumacher's decision. "I'll take a step back in time: I was very close to Lorenzo Bandini and I suffered greatly when he died in Monte Carlo in 1967," said Ferrari. "Right then, my father gave me some advice that was in line with his policy: 'You must never get too affectionate with racing drivers, because it either ends this way or they go race somewhere else. They are employees, even if very important ones.'"