F1 boosted from Schumacher return

© AP, 24 December 2009

Michael Schumacher's bid for an eighth world title provides Formula One with one of the most eagerly anticipated championship seasons in history.

© AP Images

Schumacher, who turns 41 in January, announced Wednesday he is returning to the sport after three years in retirement to drive for the Mercedes team in 2010.

Schumacher, the sport's most successful driver with 91 race wins, believes he will be a championship contender again.

Juan Manuel Fangio was F1's oldest champion at 46, while Giuseppe Farina was 43 when he won in F1's inaugural 1950 season. Schumacher wants to be next on the list.

"I have no doubt about my ability. My old hunger for racing is back," Schumacher said. "For me, the imagination to be back in a F1 car and to compete for the world championship is exciting and extremely inspiring. I think the duels on the race track will be electrifying."

They certainly should be with the new generation of drivers ready to test themselves against a living legend on a starting grid that will incorporate four champions.

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton, who has emerged as the German's heir apparent on the track, will get to test himself against the German great.

"It's brilliant news," Hamilton, the 2008 champion, said. "I used to watch Michael race when I was in the junior categories, and I always hoped I would be in Formula One while he was still around. I'm now really looking forward to seeing him on the track and back at the top."

Drivers past and present alike have no doubt that Schumacher will be a force on the track despite the layoff, with former champions Jackie Stewart and Damon Hill among those welcoming the return.

But defending champion Jenson Button, who has switched from Brawn to McLaren, had previously warned Schumacher about returning.

"Schumacher coming back to F1 is great news for the sport," Button said. "But I don't know if it will be great news for Michael Schumacher. He will be putting his reputation on the line coming back into the sport."

Fernando Alonso sits in Schumacher's old Ferrari car ready to bring championships back to an Italian team that has had a rocky time since Schumacher's exit in 2006.

Schumacher will pair with Nico Rosberg to form an all-German lineup in 2010.

"It's a great challenge for me to be up against one of the best drivers of all time," Rosberg said. "I'm sure that we will form a very strong partnership as he will have lost none of his speed!"

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn didn't think speed was an issue as he offered Schumacher the spot before the end of last season. Brawn was the architect of each of Schumacher's championships, two of them at Benetton and five straight at Ferrari from 2000-04.

"Michael's outstanding record in Formula One speaks for itself and I am looking forward to working with him again," Brawn said. "With the completion of our driver lineup, I believe that we now have the most exciting partnership in Formula One."

Schumacher, who has amassed 68 pole positions and 154 podiums over 16 years, said he has overcome a serious neck injury that kept him from filling in for Ferrari driver Felipe Massa in August after the Brazilian driver suffered life threatening injuries in a freak crash.

"The failed comeback attempt last summer gave me reason to reconsider my situation," Schumacher said. "Apparently, my batteries recharged completely during the last three years. And when -- thanks to Ross -- the opportunity arose to drive for Mercedes GP, I realized that my old motivation was back, full of fresh energy and great force."

Watch the 7-time Champion talk about his return here:

 

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