Mika Hakkinen is backing Michael Schumacher to stay in F1 next season and turn into a world championship contender.
Schumacher has been criticised for his lack of pace at Mercedes since returning from a three-year lay-off, but two-time world champion Hakkinen, who pipped the German to world titles in 1998 and 1999, is confident his old foe will turn his form around.
"Formula 1 is never easy," Hakkinen told Orange, "even for the guys driving every season. But to do F1 after three seasons out is very, very hard. I'm sure Michael knew it would be this difficult and it looks like he has been struggling, but I don't think he'll struggle for long.
"For sure, the title looks impossible for Michael now but I would expect him to be racing at Mercedes again next season and an eighth world title is totally possible. I'd like to see him do it, I believe he can do it."
Schumacher's dire 2010 season reached a new low at last month's European Grand Prix where he finished a lowly 15th at the street circuit in Valencia.
It led to critics suggesting he should bring a premature end to his F1 comeback, but Hakkinen expects his former track rival to see out the three years of his current deal.
"I can't say I know Michael as a close friend but I know him as a racer and he was always super fast and super determined," he said. "I don't believe that's changed. Formula 1 has moved on a lot while he's been away and that takes time to get up to speed with.
"I see him suddenly, bam, winning a race and then winning, winning, winning. He always liked to prove people wrong and I expect him to prove people wrong some more."
Hakkinen, who at 41 is the same age as the seven-time world champion, said: "No way would I do that now. I have too much on my stomach to lose! And it's very hard, not just on the body but on the mind, on everything.
"I loved F1 and racing but it's a tough, tough job and I stopped at the right time. I don't feel I need to go back but I wish Michael all the best in what he's doing.
By the way and FWIW, Mika isn't British.
Edited by cheapracer, 17 July 2010 - 13:59.