Schumacher close to Mercedes deal – Reports

BERLIN – Michael Schumacher is close to signing a deal with Mercedes to come out of retirement and compete in Formula One next year, Germany's Bild newspaper reported on Saturday.

Mercedes have signed Germany’s Nico Rosberg for 2010 but have yet to name his team mate with media speculation swirling around the retired 40-year-old German.

Bild said a deal with the seven-times world champion could be announced as soon as next week, without citing any sources.

Schumacher was lined up for a brief comeback this year as a stand-in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa but had to pull out due to his own neck problem.

Mercedes Grand Prix chief executive Nick Fry said on Thursday an announcement on the second driver could come before the Christmas holiday but was more likely to be in early January. He said there were about four names on the shortlist.

As recently as late November, Schumacher’s spokeswoman Sabine Kehm had said she would be surprised if the German, who will turn 41 in January, came out of retirement.

"Michael is enjoying his life very much. To me, a return would therefore be highly unlikely at the moment," she said.

Meanwhile, the FIA, the governing body, said its world motorsport council had agreed the new system that will reward race winners with 25 points rather than 10 at present.

The change follows the expansion of the starting grid to 13 teams from 10. Under the new system, agreed by teams and Formula One stakeholders before being put to the FIA, the race runner-up will get 20 points with 15 for third. The remainder will be allocated 10-8-6-5-3-2-1.

The current format awards points to the top eight in a 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 sequence but had been criticised for failing to put a premium on winning.

The season will start in Bahrain on March 14 and end at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit, which made its debut this year as the season-ender, on Nov 14.

A provisional calendar had listed Abu Dhabi as the penultimate race before Brazil, but that grand prix in Sao Paulo will now take the penultimate slot on Nov 7.

South Korea will make its F1 debut with a new coastal circuit, due to be finished in July, on Oct 24 subject to the facilities passing a FIA inspection.

Canada also returns on June 13 after a year’s absence with the calendar expanded from 17 races this year to equal the record 19 held in 2005. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone is confirmed for July 11.