Jacques Villeneuve reckons his former World Championship rival Michael Schumacher would find it easy to pick up where he left off if he returned to Formula 1 next year.
Continuing speculation suggests that Schumacher is close to a deal with Mercedes that would see him back on the grid after a three-year absence. Villeneuve is also trying to get back into F1 next year after a similar hiatus, and is confident that the man he beat to the 1997 title would still be a frontrunner.
"Obviously, everything depends on the person – if you've never been good, then to be experienced is worthless," Villeneuve told Autosprint. "But he isn't just anyone, he's Michael Schumacher, and he's always done incredible things on the track. That's why I'm convinced he can do those things again. In fact I'm convinced that, for him, it will be easy."
Although Schumacher would be 41 years old by the start of the 2010 season, Villeneuve thinks age is no barrier to success in F1.
"I don't think his physical recovery will be a problem," said the Canadian, who would himself be 39 early in the 2010 campaign if he returned, as has also been speculated about. "I don't see any reason why he shouldn't get back to being his old self again. Tiredness, in this sport, isn't physical, it's psychological. At one point, you wake up in the morning and feel annoyed at what you have to do. In the end, it becomes a bit like going to work. But if you have a break like he has had, a multiple-year break, you don't feel annoyed anymore.
"There are sports where you can be at the top level even beyond 40 years of age. Physically there are no problems. And then there is another element in his favor: experience. It's always been important but it will be even more so next year, with the new rules – no refueling pit stops and narrower tires."
He thinks the break from the sport will have increased Schumacher's determination to succeed.
"Schumacher has been on the sidelines for quite a while, so now he will have the grit of a rookie," said Villeneuve. "Would I like to get back on the track and dice with him? To be honest, I'd like to be back in F1 regardless of whether he is around or not."