Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher could be set to make a shock return to Formula One as Ferrari look for a short-term replacement for the injured Felipe Massa.
The 28-year-old Brazilian is currently in intensive care at the AEK military hospital in Budapest after suffering a fractured skull in a freak accident in qualifying for last weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix.
Massa's condition has improved in the past 24 hours with doctors taking him out of a medically-induced coma Monday night.
He has since responded well to questions and Peter Bazso, the medical director of the hospital, claimed yesterday Massa might be able to walk out of the hospital in 10 days' time.
While the news regarding Massa's condition continues to be encouraging, behind the scenes Ferrari are faced with the glum task of finding a replacement driver.
In a best-case scenario doctors have said Massa will be out for six weeks, although there are still fears he may never return as a result of his injuries.
At the very least, Massa will certainly miss the European and Belgian Grands Prix at the end of August, although the current four-week break before the next race in Valencia gives the Italian team time to assess their options.
On the list of likely replacements could be Schumacher — who won five of his drivers' titles with Ferrari — after a spokeswoman for the German revealed yesterday he could be interested in a return despite his manager, Willi Weber, ruling out such a move at the weekend.
Ferrari's official spokesman, Luca Colajanni, this afternoon refused to rule out the possibility of 40-year-old Schumacher, now an advisor at Maranello, making a return to the sport he retired from in 2006.
“We have said before that it is possible that Michael Schumacher could return to help us out,” Colajanni told Press Association Sport.
“However, we have two test drivers at Ferrari (Luca Badoer
and Marc Gene) at the moment and Michael is an advisor.
“We have not spoken to him, but it is possible that this might happen.
“But we will have to wait and see what happens. It is something for (Ferrari team principal) Stefano Domenicali to consider over the coming weeks.
“We need to see how Felipe is and the situation will evolve from there.
“We are not in any hurry, the first and foremost thing is Felipe's recovery.”
Colajanni also provided further encouraging news regarding Massa, although he played down Bazso's assertion that he could walk out of hospital as early as next week.
“I think that yesterday he improved a lot but we have to remain cautious,” he said.
“It is not useful to put forecasts on these things. I think for the moment we should just enjoy the positive improvements that Felipe is making.”
Massa was hurt when a spring that had fallen from the back of Rubens Barrichello's Brawn GP car struck him on the helmet at 162mph, causing him to lose control of his car and crash into a tyre barrier at high speed.
There were questions yesterday that the main concern for Massa's F1 future was an injury sustained to his left eye.
Colajanni confirmed Massa had today indicated he had vision out of the eye, and had enjoyed the visits of Domenicali and former Ferrari team principal Jean Todt to his bedside.
“The main thing is that he is responding well and all of the therapies are going well,” he said.
“He is getting better. Today he spoke to several people in three different languages. He was giving coherent answers to people so the signs are improving.
“He was also able to open his left eye and he could see out of it.”