According to the paper, the seven-time champ has been in intensive training that would have exposed any of the lingering neck injuries that stopped his return for Ferrari last summer.
And, the paper continues, the announcement of a deal will come in January.
Here are the key parts:
The contract is not yet signed, but The Times understands that there are now no obstacles to Michael Schumacherâ€™s comeback next season with Mercedes Grand Prix and that his neck injury is not expected to be a problem.
Schumacher is thought to have begun training at a level that would have exposed any weakness in his neck and, so far, all has gone without a hitch. The 40-year-old has not yet confirmed all the details with Mercedes, but those close to him no longer doubt that his comeback will be announced by the team in early January.
The impression gained is that the German wants to pick up where he left off with Ferrari when he retired in 2006. Those suggesting that he may see his role more as a mentor to Nico Rosberg, the 24-year-old who would be his team-mate, than a team-leading championship contender, are wide of the mark. He is said to be looking to add not only to his record 91 grand-prix wins, but also to his unparalleled haul of seven driversâ€™ titles and he has already spent many hours discussing his new car with the Mercedes team.
The relative ease with which Schumacher has come to his decision to return is thought to owe its origins to the test he drove for Ferrari within days of Massaâ€™s injury at the end of July. Schumacher drove a 2007- vintage Ferrari at the track at Mugello, in northern Italy, and he surprised himself with how quickly he found his rhythm and speed. When the call came from Ross Brawn, the team principal of Mercedes, he was immediately positive about his prospects.
There’s a nice twist to the story. Schumacher has no intention other than to win.
Wait, is that a twist or exactly what we’d expect from one of the world’s most competitive people?
Something else strikes me from the tone of this piece: Wither Ferrari?
If Schumacher had been so quick and felt so good about his abilities, why didn’t Ferrari sign him for 2010 and keep the schedule it had planned to sign Fernando Alonso in 2010? Surely Schumacher has all the development qualities Luca di Montezemolo says he needed?
And why didn’t Schumacher push harder to get back in a Ferrari seat in 2010?
It all continues not to add up for me, and I still think the neck injury is a big unknown. From what I’m piecing together from this Times article and Montezemolo’s comments, I don’t think Ferrari was all that confident Schumacher would be ready to go for 2010.
And with one driver’s future already in doubt — and until Felipe Massa makes a full recovery in a race, I say his return is in doubt — it is easy to see why Ferrari did not want to take a chance on Schumacher.
Plus, from other comments out of Maranello, it sure seems like Ferrari never, never thought they would lose Schumacher.
And now it seems they are about to to old friend Ross Brawn.