Michael Schumacher has decided against making a return to Formula One just over a week before he was due to rejoin Ferrari at the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
The seven-time world champion has cited lingering doubts over a neck injury as the reason for his decision.
Schumacher had been due to test for a further two days at Mugello in preparation for his return, but called time on his plans on the eve of his return to the cockpit of the 2007-spec Ferrari, which he had been running on GP2 slicks in a bid to get to grips with one of the areas of technology that have changed since his 2006 retirement. A bid to run a full 2009-spec machine, with its heavily revised aerodynamic package was denied by Williams and Red Bull last week.
Schumacher's neck injury is the result of a spill from a superbike in February, as he pursued his new-found love of bike racing in retirement from F1. The 40-year old suffered some discomfort after testing for the first time at Mugello ten days ago, but had hoped to be able to recover with treatment and fitness training between outings. However, lingering pain forced him to seek a second opinion on Monday [10 August] and, heeding advice from doctors, the German took the hard decision to end his comeback bid.
"Unfortunately, we did not manage to get a grip on the pain, which occurred after the private test day at Mugello," Schumacher revealed on his personal website, "As there were no improvements after the day at Mugello, I decided at short notice on Sunday to get a thorough examination on Monday.
"Unfortunately, the consequences of the injuries caused by the bike accident in February - fractures in the area of head and neck - turned out to be too severe for my neck to withstand the extreme stresses caused by F1. These are the clear results of the examinations we did in the course of the past two weeks and the final examination on Monday afternoon."
Schumacher's return, in place of Felipe Massa who was injured in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix two weekends ago, had been expected to swell the crowd at the second European GP in Valencia next Sunday [23 August], and had led to many of his potential rivals - some, like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, who had yet to race against him - to express their delight at his return.
"I am disappointed to the core," Schumacher admitted, "I am awfully sorry for the guys at Ferrari, and for all the fans which crossed fingers for me, but I can only repeat that I tried everything that was within my power. All I can do now is to keep my fingers crossed for the whole team for the coming races."
Ferrari has yet to reveal any candidates to replace Schumacher as Massa's stand-in.