Mercedes began talks with record-breaking multiple F1 world champion Michael Schumacher about a possible return to the sport in 2010 around six months ago, Mercedes-Benz Motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug has confirmed.
The new Silver Arrows works team finally announced that Schumacher has agreed to join the Brackley-based outfit today. However, as talks have been going on so long, it now seems highly unlikely that the squad had any real intention of retaining 2009 F1 World champion, Jenson Button, who will drive for McLaren next season.
Speaking after everything was made public, Haug was clearly delighted to have tempted the 40-year-old out of retirement and away from Ferrari to team up with former Williams man, Nico Rosberg, something that completes the all-German super-team.
“We just made it in time before Christmas and hopefully this is a nice Christmas present for everybody who is interested in F1,” Haug said. “We signed contracts last night and so we go public today. It wasn't signed earlier than last night. That is the truth.
“Of course we are proud and very happy. Michael began his career with Mercedes in 1990 and now he comes back to where he started, which is fantastic story.
“You cannot plan these things though. We worked very hard on it. It is probably about half a year ago that we first had contact. It was always discussed again, and again. We have always had a very good relationship - and of course Ross Brawn is very close to Michael. Michael won all of his seven world championships with him at Benetton and then Ferrari.
“We originally made contact to see basically if he would be interested in coming out of retirement. I have known Michael a long time and we have always had a good friendship, even as stiff and tough competitors.
“Very often, jokingly, we said: 'One day we are going to work together, one day we will have a season together'. Now it has worked out. But, honestly, if somebody had said this half a year ago I would not have believed it was possible. But it was possible - and so now we will enjoy it.”
Asked if it was important for Mercedes to have two German drivers in F1 2010, Haug insisted it wasn't critical: “We are an international team. We have been criticised in the past for not having a German driver and now we have two. But that is more a coincidence,” he added.
“We just wanted to have the two best available drivers and I think in Nico and Michael we have managed that for 2010.”
So what is the aim for next year?