YEONGAM, SOUTH KOREA // Michael Schumacher is masking his true feelings about his disappointing Formula One comeback, according to the man who presided over the seven-time world champion's greatest years.
Jean Todt, the former Ferrari team chief and now the president of the FIA, motorsport's governing body, suggested that the 41-year-old German's relaxed public demeanour was a smokescreen.
"I don't think he is so relaxed, but he is a very proud guy and you need to know him very well before he will speak to you and tell you exactly what he feels," the Frenchman said yesterday.
"He is protecting himself, which I can understand, but he is a very human, very fragile person, and he's not at all this strong kind of a robot as he was portrayed very often in his career."
If Ferrari was like a second family to Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of the sport, his relationship with Todt was particularly close.
"He is like a son," Todt had declared in October last year when Schumacher, who has returned with Mercedes after three years' out, accompanied him to the FIA presidential election, that he won.
The Frenchman knows plenty about pressure himself, even now keeping the fingernails on one hand taped over to prevent himself chewing them.
"Michael is a very close friend and somebody I respect highly," said Todt. "He is a very strong-minded guy and he chose to come back. I'd rather see him in Formula One than riding a motor bike. I think it is much safer.
"He thought very carefully about the opportunity of coming back.
"However talented you are, if you stop for three years and if you don't drive the best car, it will not be easy - which is the case. He made the choice to come back. He may decide to stop. Is he putting in all his heart and all his effort? The answer is yes."