MICHAEL SCHUMACHER'S RUMOURED return to Formula 1 has gathered further momentum after Ferrari announced it would not prevent the German from joining Mercedes Grand Prix.
Newspapers in Schumacher?s homeland have been rife with reports the seven-time World Champion has agreed to a one-year deal to race for Mercedes, although exact wage figures have varied from ?3 million to ?20 million.
A major stumbling block to any potential agreement though was believed to be Ferrari?s reluctance to release Schumacher from his duties with the company?s road division after it was claimed he signed a three-year deal with the Maranello-company.
However, Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemolo has cleared the path for Schumacher to join Ross Brawn?s team, revealing any arrangement with Schumacher is ?not binding?.
Di Montezemolo was also quick to emphasise that any move to Mercedes would mark the end of Schumacher?s involvement in Ferrari?s road car program, with the two marques set to compete for the same slice of the luxury sports car market.
?It's clear that if he decides to take another road our agreement will no longer be valid, that is logical. You can't work with a competitor and with us at the same time,? he said.
?I still haven't spoken to him about it. He is only a dear friend, not a team member. He is a consultant for our road cars.?
Schumacher was poised to make a comeback this year with Ferrari to replace Felipe Massa after the Brazilian sustained life threatening injuries at the Hungarian Grand Prix, completing a test at Mugello in an F2007.
However, the 91-time Grand Prix winner was forced to back out when it became increasingly apparent his neck, which was injured in a motorcycle crash in February, wouldn?t be able to withstand the rigours of racing.
The experience though served to whet his appetite for a full time return, and when Jenson Button moved across to McLaren, Schumacher emerged as an unlikely candidate to replace the World Champion.