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Sir Jackie Stewart has questioned Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 comeback, believing that the 7-time World Champion seriously risks damaging his reputation as a winner. The Scot points the finger at the German's 'early' retirement at the end of the 2006 season.
With Ferrari keen to hire Kimi Räikkönen at the time and with Schumacher having built up a friendly relationship with team-mate Felipe Massa, some consider the Kerpen man to have felt obliged to depart the sport earlier than planned, so as to not force the Brazilian out of a top seat.
Triple Champion Stewart believes, however, that the Mercedes driver is now more vulnerable than previously.
"I'd rather that Michael hadn't come back because of the enormous achievements he had and the reputation he created," the title winner of 1969, 1971 and 1973 explained to the Press Association. "There's no doubt that, if he doesn't become a serial winner now, he is no longer the Michael Schumacher the world knew.
"Juan Manuel Fangio probably did one race too many but Michael is doing one season too many; Michael didn't win the championship in his last year and has then come back, so he risks altering the perception of what he's achieved."
However, Stewart hints that the decision made three and a half years ago was arguably a greater error than that of last Christmas.
"The problem was that Michael retired too early, leaving before he got the bug that motor racing provides out of his system," Sir Jackie continued. "Had he thought more about it and taken longer to make the decision, he wouldn't have retired. Since he hadn't got it out of his system, he went riding superbikes in Germany and fell off more than once - it doesn't make sense at all.
"Mercedes-Benz looked like the perfect opportunity but, had Jim Clark retired, he would not have come back. When I retired I never once had the desire to return, despite a whole bunch of offers including one for six million. I got over it, something that Michael hasn't managed to do."
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