The word on the street is that Michael Schumacher could be in line for the Mercedes-Benz (née Brawn) drive next year alongside Nico Rosberg. So let us have a logical look at whether this is really going to happen.
There are, of course, plenty of known associations: Ross Brawn oversaw all of Schumacher’s World Championships at Benetton and at Ferrari and knows Michael perfectly. Mercedes-Benz gave Michael his break in motor racing back in the days before Norbert Haug when Jochen Neerpasch picked him for the Mercedes-Benz Junior Team, alongside Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Karl Wendlinger and Fritz Kreutzpointner (hey, you cannot always get it right). Neerpasch played a major role in getting him into F1 and in slipping him out of Jordan and into Benetton. This all makes sense although men like Brawn and Haug are rarely sentimental. You do not get to be successful in F1 without being fairly hard-headed. They will look the facts and decide.
On the downside, Michael is 40 and has a neck injury which was (and perhaps still is) far worse than he ever wanted to admit. He tried to come back in August with Ferrari, but this was stymied by the injury. This was six months after the motorcycle accident that caused the head and neck problems. For now Michael can race in karts and the Race of Champions, but sustained high G seems to be difficult and, according to doctors, not healthy. Michael did say that his neck was not strong enough “yet”, but that may have been a victory of ambition over good sense.
It should also be remembered that when Michael left Ferrari it was because he had been put into a position where he had no choice. The reason Ferrari did this was that the team seemed to think that although he was still quick, he was no longer as fast as was necessary. It replaced him with Kimi Raikkonen. These days Michael is only working for the team as a road car test driver, the decision having been made to stop the F1 work he had been doing. There is no doubt that Michael still loves to race, more than anything else in his life, but there are dangers of going into a Mercedes situation. He would no longer have the advantages that were built into his contracts at Ferrari. It would not be his team and there is not really time to build it into that.
There are also disadvantages in having Michael. Mercedes-Benz wants to get publicity for own products, not for Michael Schumacher. If Michael did return and win the headlines would say “Schumacher!”, whereas if Heidfeld or Rosberg win it will be because the cars have turned them into winners. If Michael arrived and failed then the car would probably take the blame. Thus hiring Schumacher makes less sense for Mercedes-Benz than it at first appears. This is an argument that Mercedes-Benz has long used when asked why it did not hire Michael in the McLaren days. There is no reason why they could not hire him to stand next to cars and say: “I love Mercedes-Benz products because…” but there are downsides to having him racing for them.
The final point is that Michael may want to race but wise heads around him will be explaining to him that the Schumacher legacy will be damaged with poor comebacks. Nigel Mansell could not give up the F1 dream and embarrassed himself with the miserable McLaren business. Knowing when to quit is important in the sporting legend business.