That is the opinion of Red Bull's Mark Webber, who at times during his own formula one career has been highly complimentary as well as deeply critical of the seven time world champion.

That is the opinion of Red Bull's Mark Webber, who at times during his own formula one career has been highly complimentary as well as deeply critical of the seven time world champion.

Before Schumacher, 41, made his return to the F1 grid two weeks ago in Bahrain after three years of retirement, Webber said: "I have never ever seen a phenomenal comeback".

"I think it will be a bloody hard season for him," the 33-year-old Australian predicted.

Indeed, Schumacher was outpaced throughout the Bahrain weekend by Rosberg, who is 17 years younger than his famous German countryman.

Ahead of this weekend's Melbourne race, Webber believes the days of Schumacher winning races by huge margins are over.

"I wouldn't expect him to beat Nico -- I expect it to be close," he added. "Rosberg is competitive and I would say Schumacher is too."

But Jacques Villeneuve, who narrowly beat Schumacher to the title in 1997, does expect Schumacher to return to the boil.

"He can be world champion again," the French Canadian is quoted as saying by the German news agency SID.

"In his first race after three years out he was only a few tenths behind, which was a very good performance.

"Give him a few races and he will be back to where he was with Ferrari," added Villeneuve.

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