McLaren doctor Aki Hintsa thinks fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen will struggle less on his Formula 1 comeback next season than Michael Schumacher has on his return. 2007 world champion Raikkonen is coming back to F1 after a two year spell in the World Rally Championship.
Schumacher was retired for 3 years before being coaxed back into action by Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn in 2010 after Ferrari's president Luca di Montezemolo had first motivated the seven times world champion's desire to return the season before. Schumacher in his comeback wasn't the all conquering driver he was previously and was beaten for the first time in his F1 career by a teammate. This year Schumacher has improved greatly and the difference between him and teammate Nico Rosberg is much closer.
However McLaren doctor Hintsa, who knows Raikkonen well after the Finn's five years at McLaren, chips away at any comparisons between Raikkonen and Schumacher. Speaking in the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat, Hintsa says "Physically, Kimi is definitely as strong now as he ever was. It is clear that a return to F1 for Kimi will be easier than it was for Michael Schumacher two years ago.
"First of all, Kimi is so much younger than Michael, and secondly, he was not away for as long and while he was away, he kept driving in a very demanding category" adds Hintsa, referring to Raikkonen’s world rally participation in the 2 years he was absent from F1 and also highlighting the age difference with Raikkonen turning 32 a few weeks ago and Schumacher the oldest on the grid with his 43rd birthday coming up in January.
"At that stage of life a ten year age difference is a major factor in top-level sport, says Hintsa. "When an athlete turns 40, the response time begins to slow down naturally and there’s nothing you can do about it. It is not possible to turn back the clock."
Ross Brawn was asked a while ago about Schumacher's age and told about how all the data points to the average Formula 1 driver being too old at that age, with the quick witted Brawn replying to the reporter "with all due respect Michael[who holds just about every performance record in F1] is not your average Formula 1 driver"