Michael Schumacher latest: F1 legend ‘was like a dry sponge’ says former mentor

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Meanwhile the motor racing legend’s son Mick, who has been tipped to follow his father into Formula One, has said he was “happy” to be compared with his illustrious father. Mr Neerpasch, 79, was once employed as a talent scout for Mercedes, with the job of attracting talented drivers to the planned Silver Arrows F1 team.As a result, he kept tabs on Schumacher from the start – and remembers clearly the way he stood out from the pack, even at a young age.

He was also watching two other drivers, but said they could not match what he termed Schumacher’s “unruly ambition”.

He told German website formel1.de: “All three were fast. But Michael had nothing else in mind than car racing.

“He absorbed everything worth knowing about the car, the technology, the strategy, the behaviour of the cars during the races. 

“It was like a dry sponge that is put in water.”

In the end, Mercedes did not return to Forumla 1 as a constructor until 2010, by which time Schumacher had already won seven world titles.

Acknowledging the missed opportunity, Mr Neerpasch added: “Schumacher would have become world champion in the Silver Arrow.”

Mick Schumacher, who will drive in the Formula 2 Championship this season, told German newspaper the Siegerland Kurier: “I think I’m pretty good at putting it away, having my head 100 percent focused on Formula 2 and putting all my energy into it. 

“I’m also very happy about being compared to my dad.

“I have to take one step at a time, and right now my full focus is on Formula 2. Everything else we’ll see.”

Ross Brawn, another long-term friend and mentor of the motor racing legend, whose condition since sustaining serious head injuries in a catastrophic skiing accident five years ago largely remains a mystery, has remarked on Mick’s remarkable similarity to his father.

Mr Brawn, who worked closely with the German during his golden years at Benetton and Ferrari, said he saw striking parallels between Schumacher Sr and Schumacher Jr.

He said: “It’s so exciting, I often very much see Michael in Mick.”

Mr Brawn, who along with French motor sport executive Jean Todt has known the younger Schumacher since he was a child, added: “It’s just fascinating, he has a good family, they all have the experience of Michael and how to handle it if Mick succeeds.

“The people who know him and spend more time with him than I say that he has made impressive progress in the past twelve months. He is a nice young man.”

Addressing the idea of Mick becoming an F1 driver, Mr Brawn said: “That would be wonderful, but there’s a lot of pressure on this guy, and I hope that the audience has that in mind and does not put any unrealistic expectations in him.”

Ever since his accident, in the French Alps on December 29, 2013, Schumacher has been receiving specialist treatment at his home in Switzerland, but the precise nature of his injuries has never been revealed.

However, Professor Stephano Charades revealed he had operated to removed hematomas from Schumacher’s brain, after which the German was placed in an induced coma for six months.

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