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We knew this was coming, but it's good to get it out in the open. F1 is interesting to me, but this just makes it a bit more so.


Schumacher to return to F1 with Mercedes

By GEIR MOULSON, Associated Press Writer

12/23/2009

BERLIN (AP)—A record seven world championships just wasn’t enough for Michael Schumacher.

The German announced his return to Formula One racing on Wednesday, ending three years in retirement to drive for the Mercedes team in 2010.

Schumacher, who turns 41 on Jan. 3, said there is no reason he can’t win an eighth drivers’ title.

“What do you expect?” he said. “I have won it seven times. I’m now with the team that won both titles last year. We have on top Mercedes as a partner and team owner. So you cannot expect anything else than to go for the world championship, and that’s what we’re aiming for.”

Schumacher, who will partner Nico Rosberg in an all-German team for the 2010 season, said he and Mercedes are in discussions about a deal through the 2012 season.

“We are talking about a three-year deal. It’s not a one-off thing,” Schumacher said. “We are looking for some continuation.”

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Germany’s Bild daily—which first broke news of the deal—reported that Schumacher would earn ?7 million ($10 million) under an initial one-year contract.

“Three years of absence gave back all the energy that I’m feeling right now,” Schumacher said in a telephone conference. “I feel ready for some serious stuff.

“I still feel absolutely on the edge. It’s thrilling and exciting. I believe I can be absolutely competitive.”

Schumacher competed in 249 F1 races from 1991-2006 with Jordan, Benetton and Ferrari.

He won the F1 drivers’ championship in 1994 and 1995 and five straight years from 2000-2004. He set records with 91 race wins and several other milestones in the sport which still stand.

Schumacher had planned a short-term comeback with Ferrari last season to fill in for the injured Felipe Massa, but he had to call that off due to a neck injury from a motorcycle accident.

“I made sure myself, and 100 percent with the neck there are no more issues,” he said. “There has been enough time now for it to heal completely.”

Schumacher had been working as a consultant with Ferrari since his retirement, attending some F1 races. He said he had not envisioned a permanent comeback until approached by Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn—the man who oversaw the German’s seven world titles: five with Ferrari and two with Benetton.

Brawn said he was convinced that Schumacher would be competitive.

“He’s the best judge of what he can do and I trust him implicitly, and he told me he can do it so I’m very confident,” Brawn said. “He’s always been his own best critic.”

Former champion Niki Lauda, who himself quit the sport after winning his first two world titles but returned to win a third in 1984, predicted that Schumacher will be among the front-runners “from day one.”

“The Vettels, Hamiltons and Alonsos will be thinking, ‘We’ll show this old guy how it’s done,”’ Lauda said on German radio. “But I fear that they will have to watch out.”

Mercedes took over the Brawn GP team that won the drivers’ and constructors’ championships in its first season in 2009. Jenson Button, who won the drivers’ title with the team, has since left for McLaren while Rubens Barrichello has gone to Williams.

Schumacher’s return gives him a chance to pay back Mercedes, which steered his pre-F1 career.

“The one reason I seriously thought about my return is because an old friend asked me,” Schumacher said. “Mercedes gave me a chance to enter Formula One and throughout the years we were never able to work together, but now I have that chance. I am happy to give back for what Mercedes gave me in the early days.”

Schumacher acknowledged that parting company with Ferrari was “certainly not an easy step.”

He said he still feels “strong solidarity and loyalty to these guys who have accompanied me and have always built great cars for me.”

Rosberg said it would be “fantastic” to have Schumacher as his new teammate.

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