Michael Schumacher – the most successful driver in F1 history – will make a sensational return to top flight competition in 2010, Mercedes Grand Prix has officially confirmed, as the German legend vowed to fight for the title once again as he writes a 'new chapter' in his extraordinary career at 41 years of age.
The announcement of a reputed £6.25 million one-year deal cements speculation that has been sweeping the paddock for weeks, and completes an all-German 'super team' for the three-pointed star, with Schumacher joining forces with highly-rated young compatriot Nico Rosberg
– who confessed that he is relishing the prospect of going up against a driver with no fewer than seven world championship crowns, 91 grand prix victories, 154 podium finishes and a staggering 1,369 points to his name from 249 previous starts at the highest level between 1991 and 2006.
Schumacher hung up his F1 helmet three years ago, but some have suggested that he was pushed out of Ferrari
rather than jumped, being given the option of either retiring or else staying alongside the incoming Kimi Raikkonen
– the man the Scuderia
felt at the time was his natural heir and long-term replacement, mistakenly, as it would transpire – and forcing his then team-mate and protégé Felipe Massa
out of a seat.
The Kerpen native duly left, but he also left behind some unfinished business – and after his failed comeback in-place of Massa following the Brazilian's terrifying Hungaroring
qualifying accident during the summer re-awakened his thirst for the fight, he is now back to finish it off.
“Mercedes Grand Prix Petronas represents a new challenge for me both in a sporting and a personal context,” Schumacher affirmed of his agreement to rejoin forces with the 'Silver Arrows' following a month of in-depth talks. “It is a new chapter in my racing career, and I am really looking forward to working with my old friend Ross Brawn and my companions from my days with the Mercedes Junior Programme.
“I am convinced that together we will be involved in the fight for the Formula 1 World Championship next year, and I am already looking forward to getting back onto the race track. For me, this partnership closes the circle. Mercedes supported me for so many years when I began my Formula 1 career – and now I can hopefully give something back to the brand with the star.”
Indeed, Schumacher was parachuted into F1 with Jordan Grand Prix in the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix
at Spa-Francorchamps – going on to qualify an incredible seventh on his debut – off the back of a successful partnership in Group C sportscars with the Mercedes Junior Programme, and after moving on to Benetton just a race later, he would strike up with Brawn what has been inarguably the most fruitful driver/technical director relationship in the sport's history.
The Englishman helped to expertly guide his charge to each and every one of his drivers' titles – at both Benetton and Ferrari
– and is now at the helm of Mercedes Grand Prix, having sold his eponymously-named outfit onto the Stuttgart manufacturer in the wake of double world championship glory in 2009. It is clear that the reunion is a happy one for both parties.
“I am delighted that we can confirm today that Michael will make his much-anticipated return to Formula 1 next year and drive for our Mercedes Grand Prix Petronas team,” the 55-year-old enthused. “As a seven-time world champion, Michael's outstanding record in Formula 1 speaks for itself and I am looking forward to working with him again.