Michael Schumacher will circumvent the current Formula One testing ban by making his GP2 Series debut at Jerez this week.
The German, who was previously rumoured to be trying a GP2 car in Abu Dhabi in December, remains keen to prove the health of his neck following the fracture which kept him from replacing Felipe Massa at Ferrari after last season's Hungarian Grand Prix. He will join British outfit Super Nova for a three-day session from 12-14 January, which should also enable him to get a feel for the current breed of unaided F1 car.
The test – which has been approved by F1 governing body the FIA, the GP2 Series and the Formula One Testing Committee – will also allow GP2 Series organisers to get valuable feedback on their four-litre, 630bhp development product scheduled to run from 2011 to 2013, with the seven-time world champion ideally placed to point out any areas that could be improved.
Although the current breed of GP2 machine is based on F1 cars pre-2009, and consequently does not feature the latest aerodynamic designs, Schumacher should get a feel for the forces – both generated by the car and the feedback from the road surface – that will put the greatest strain on his injured neck ahead of his first outing with the works Mercedes team in Spain next month.
The German is not the first world champion to try his hand in a GP2 Series car, as WRC king Sebastien Loeb tested with DPR ahead of a rumoured F1 debut in last season's Abu Dhabi finale. The Frenchman, however, proved slowest of all during his time on-track.
One of the main goals of the three-day test will be to evaluate numerous suspension configurations, in order to define new set-up solutions which will provide more flexibility for GP2 drivers and engineers during race weekends. Alongside that programme, the test will see the evaluation and validation of updated components – including a new clutch – to be introduced later this year.
GP2 is currently defining the technical features of the championship's third-generation car, which will debut in spring, 2011 – and series organiser Bruno Michel admits that the outing should prove to be mutually beneficial to both parties.
“The test marks a milestone for the GP2 Series,” the Frenchman enthused. “It is an honour and a privilege for us to have seven-time Formula 1World Champion Michael Schumacher helping us to develop our car. The goal of the GP2 Series is to prepare young drivers for Formula 1, and this test will prove to be very important for the future of our GP2 drivers and will be a confirmation of the high standards and competitiveness of our series. Michael's input and advice will be invaluable. I am confident that his knowledge and unparalleled driving skills will help us to develop a great car for next season.”