A push by Ferrari to allow teams to run three cars in Formula 1 next year could yet allow Michael Schumacher to return to the sport.
That was the firm hint dropped by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo on Tuesday night, just hours after Schumacher's F1 comeback was called off for now because of a neck injury.
Di Montezemolo believes that Schumacher has plenty to offer F1 still, even though he is 40-year-old, and he has said he will not ease off in his efforts to get the rules changed so Ferrari can run three cars next year - with Schumacher a possibility to fill for as many races as he wants.
In an interview that will appear in La Stampa on Wednesday, di Montezemolo said that there were clear reasons why Ferrari opted for its former champion rather than a young driver when it came to finding a replacement for Felipe Massa.
"Well we're talking about Michael Schumacher," said di Montezemolo. "He is 40 years old, but he's still from another planet.
"I prefer the champion, even if matured, to the mediocre driver, even if he's young. Our circus needed some great input.
"We're continuing to fight until every team has the right to start with three cars in the next season (and one I'd have handed over to Michael with pleasure). I prefer three McLaren and three Renault to three "whatevers". With BMW gone, there's not much to say but lots to do."
Di Montezemolo said he was 'very disappointed' by the news delivered on Monday night that Schumacher's neck injury from a motorcycle crash had not healed enough to allow him to race in F1, but said there was no point in pushing the German to try to get in the car.
"They found something that still didn't work," said di Montezemolo. "So it's better not to insist. We wouldn't do that at all. He had the small motorcycle accident in February and on the first laps at Mugello he felt that something was wrong. You shouldn't joke with your health."
Di Montezemolo also revealed that Schumacher himself was unhappy about the development that has kept him out of the F1 cockpit for now.
When asked how Schumacher reacted to the news, di Montezemolo said: "What do you think? He answered with such an enthusiasm to my request; the enthusiasm of a boy and not of a retired champion.
"He lost four kilos; same weight as in October 2006 when he raced for the last time in Brazil. You can imagine how he took it."
And di Montezemolo said that Badoer's chances of keeping the race seat beyond the European GP would very much depend on the job he did.
"[We have] faith in Luca Badoer, who's one of us," he said. "Destiny has given him a unique possibility now he has to make the best out of it. We will support him with all we've got."