After completing a three-day test session in a GP2 car in Jerez, Michael Schumacher was upbeat and optimistic about his return to Formula 1. In fact, as he recently told the German publication Bild, his aim is clearly defined: to win an eighth world championship. “We have a clear aim in our long-term plan and that is for me to become world champion with Mercedes GP,” Schumacher said. “Maybe it won’t happen immediately in the first year, but it is a realistic aim over the three years.”
Schumacher is nothing if not methodical, and planning a title challange over a three-year time line is typical of his systematic approach to things.
Ironically, the fact that he will be racing again at all is purely the result of chance. It was only when he was asked to step in for the injured Felipe Massa last year, and did some preparatory testing in a 2007 Ferrari, did he realize that he still had a hunger for racing.
Had Massa never been injured, Luca di Montezemolo would never have asked Schumacher to fill in, and the test never would have taken place. Schumacher would probably still be making his occasional visits to the Ferrari pit wall, looking somewhat awkward, without a chair.
Referring to his racing sabbatical, and his role as a trackside “consultant” for the Scuderia, Schumacher said, “I was more bored than frustrated at all of my recent visits to races.”
Clearly, his consultancy role was less than satisfying. As former team mate Eddie Irvine recently told ESPN, “When he was going to the races with Ferrari he was probably thinking ‘What the hell am I doing here?’ There was no point in him going to the race as an advisor because he didn’t know enough of that side of the business, so he really didn’t have a job. He was just turning up as a poster boy.”
As all the racing world knows, Schumacher had to scrub his reserve driver stint because he was still recovering from a neck injury, which he sustained in a motorcycle racing accident. He looked despondent when he announced this to a press gathering in Geneva. A very savvy Ross Brawn noticed the look on Schumi’s face, and suspected that Schumacher’s racing itch still needed scratching.
In a very Brawn-like chess move, the Mercedes team boss sacrficed a lesser piece (Button) in order to gain Schumacher. Although there was an offer on the table for Button for 2010 (at the same rate now being paid to Schumacher, it should be noted), Brawn deftly withdrew it, citing a possible breach of contract by Button, who had somewhat coyly opened parallel negotiations with McLaren.
Said Eddie Irvine of Schumacher’s comeback, and his title chances, “For sure Schumacher is fast enough to win races again and there is no comparison between Michael and Jenson in terms of ability. Jenson won the world title this year so Michael can win it next year in the right car, and even if he doesn’t have a competitive car, we have seen that Michael can do incredible things.”
And regarding Schumacher’s aborting his consultancy role at Ferrari, and his return to the racing cockpit, Irvine added, “At least now he has a proper job.”
(Image source: AutoMoto TV)