By and large, the reaction to Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula 1 has been enthusiastic. Many of the young guns who have made a name for themselves since Schumi’s retirement, but never had the chance to compete against the legend, now welcome the chance to do so.
As reported in The Telegraph, Lewis Hamilton has said, “It’s great to have Michael back in Formula One. He is a legend and a really nice guy, and I am happy that he has once again got an opportunity to do the best job in the world. I wish him my absolute best on his comeback with Mercedes-Benz.”
While this response sounds as if it had been hand-crafted by McLaren’s PR staff, one suspects that Hamilton will relish the chance to measure himself against the driver that many have called the greatest of all time. “I used to watch Michael race when I was in the junior categories,” Hamilton said. “I always hoped that I would be in F1 while he was still around.”
Meanwhile, Eddie Irvine, Schumacher’s team mate at Ferrari for four years (1996-1999), has offered a balanced view of Schumacher’s return. Said Irvine, “The speed will be there, though he won’t be as fast as he was seven years ago. He’s not at the peak of his game, but he’s still good enough to win races as he has such an immense talent. It’s still four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine and there has never been anyone better than Michael.”
One suspects that this is an assessment that Schumacher wouldn’t entirely agree with. He’s already stated that he’ll be aiming for a record 8th world title next year, and certainly Ross Brawn wouldn’t have asked him to come out of retirement unless he had faith that Schumacher still had the ability to bring home the trophies.
And Brawn’s new partner in the paddock, Mercedes motorsport VP Norbert Haug, has concurred: “Michael has more of everything than every other driver. Our sporting ambition has always been that Michael should drive again where his professional career had started, and he knew that.”
Haug made it clear that Mercedes has had Schumacher on their wish list for many years. “We often joked about it after the races and discussed the prospect seriously several times during the last 14 years in Formula 1,” said Haug. “It didn’t happen in 1995, it didn’t happen in 1998 and it didn’t happen in 2005. I am delighted that it will now happen in 2010. Everybody at Mercedes extends a very warm welcome to our ‘apprentice’ of 19 years ago. That apprentice is now the most successful racing driver of all time.”