If anyone was still in any doubt as to the inspiration behind Michael Schumacher's F1 comeback in 2010, the record-breaking German legend has confessed that his burning desire is to pull off the 'unique' accomplishment of both returning to action following a three-year hiatus – and clinching the crown in his fifth decade into the bargain.
With seven drivers' world championships, 91 grand prix victories, 154 podium finishes and a staggering points total of 1,369 from 249 top flight starts to-date, some would argue that Schumacher has little else to truly achieve, and far more to lose than to gain in re-entering the fray with Mercedes Grand Prix at the grand old age of 41.
Predictably, the Kerpen native disagrees, and in explaining his decision to dust off his helmet and racing boots and put himself to the test once more against drivers closer to half his age, he revealed that it was the encouragement of his wife Corinna and children Gina-Maria and Mick that ultimately convinced him to rejoin the grid.
“I don't recall there being many drivers over 40 in F1,” he is quoted as having said by British newspaper The Sun
. “It makes me unique. It would be a unique experience and unique achievement if I was to win the world championship again – but that is what I'll be fighting for.
“I had to sort out my personal situation first. Corinna has always wanted to see me happy, and when seeing my eyes, and the sparkle there, she didn't argue. She said 'go and have fun'.”
Schumacher has agreed a three-year, £7 million deal with Mercedes – who bought a majority stake in defending world champions Brawn GP last month – and whilst he confesses that his motivation was flagging when he initially called it a day following 15-and-a-half seasons of competition at the end of 2006, he insists that he is both motivated enough and fit enough now to come back and try again.
“Before giving the final okay, I had to make sure my neck was fine,” he explained, alluding to the injury that ultimately prevented him from substituting former Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa at the Scuderia
in the wake of the Brazilian's terrifying, high-speed Hungaroring qualifying accident in July. “I had to understand that myself. It wasn't okay in the summer, but it's had time to heal.
“When I got into a kart for the first time after my motorbike crash, I was straightaway on the pace. I have no doubt it will be the same in an F1 car – although that still has to be proved. It has not been an easy step to leave Ferrari, as I have been there for 14 years. I wasn't thinking about returning to racing – but it was a special combination that has brought me back. If it was not for Mercedes, I would not have returned.”
Schumacher got his big break in F1 off the back of an impressive sportscar apprenticeship with the three-pointed star back in 1991, giving his new challenge something of a nice symmetry in closing the circle. Fellow multiple world champion Niki Lauda – who came out of retirement to lift the laurels for a third time in 1984 – is confident that there remains more glory yet to be achieved.
“Michael will give F1 back its old dimension,” opined the Austrian. “If he gets a good car, he will be able to win again at once. He's the best F1 driver ever.”