Michael Schumacher’s hopes of testing this season’s Ferrari F1 car have taken a blow after rival teams Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams said it would oppose any such attempt.
It was widely believed that the eight members of the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) – all the current teams minus Williams and Force India – would support Schumacher’s hopes of testing this year’s car ahead of his return to competition later this month.
Ferrari has asked all the teams, as well as the FIA, for special dispensation for Schumacher to test and familiarise himself with the current car. Last week, he drove a 2007-spec car at Mugello to prepare himself for replacing the injured Felipe Massa at the European Grand Prix on 23 August.
Williams said it is opposing Ferrari's request because it clearly contravenes the regulations, which state testing is not allowed during the season.
"While we welcome Michael Schumacher back to Formula 1, the fact is that any form of in-season circuit testing is strictly prohibited, a regulation clearly laid out by the FIA and adhered to by all of the teams," said team boss Frank Williams.
"In a similar situation, Williams would unhesitatingly use its current test driver. For the sake of consistency and fairness, therefore, we oppose Ferrari's proposal to test ahead of the European Grand Prix."
The Red Bull teams are unwilling to cede to the request after Dietrich Mateschitz claimed that a similar one by Toro Rosso to give 19-year-old rookie Jaime Alguersuari some track time prior to his F1 debut in Hungary was refused.
"We asked for a test permission for Alguersuari before the Hungarian GP and it was turned down," said Mateschitz. "So why should we approve an exemption for a seven-time-champion after this?
"We are happy that Jaime did such an excellent job on his debut."
Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug said over the weekend he would fully support an in-season test by Michael Schumacher.
“Whatever we can do to support him we will do,” said Haug. “I just think it is fair. This is an exception. If Michael had said he would come back under the condition that he could test, everybody would have said yes.
“His team-mate has thousands of kilometres in this car, and he has nothing. As we are fair players, why should he not get some testing? I would be very open to that.”