Michael Schumacher probably won't win his first race back in F1 on his return to top flight competition following three years out of the cockpit – but he will
go on to become world champion for a staggering eighth time in 2010, contends Ross Brawn.
Schumacher will rejoin the fray with Mercedes Grand Prix this season on a three-year deal, and the German has sought to play down expectations by revealing that his sights are set more on long-term glory than immediate triumph [see separate story – click here
However, the Brackley-based outfit's team principal Brawn – the man who expertly engineered the Kerpen native to each and every one of his drivers' world titles to-date, firstly at Benetton and subsequently Ferrari – believes on-track success will not be long in coming for the most successful driver in the sport's history, and one who is now 'more relaxed' than he was earlier on in his record-breaking career.
The Englishman acknowledges that the limited amount of pre-season testing to accustom himself to his new mount and re-acclimatise to the physical and mental rigours of F1 more than 50 races on from initially hanging up his helmet will not greatly aid Schumacher's cause – but the 41-year-old will get there, he insists, despite now being up against a wealth of strong competitors in strong teams and rivals like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel who are barely half his age.
“Time is short,” Brawn told German newspaper Bild
, when asked about having just four F1 tests prior to the curtain-raising Bahrain Grand Prix in Sakhir in mid-March. “I don't think Michael can win the first race.
“He will need a few races to become accustomed to these cars and the many new drivers, but then I hope to see the famous Schumi. That was always his strength – to adapt and learn incredibly quickly.
“If I had to bet on any of them, then it is clear that Michael will become world champion. Michael is now more relaxed. When he retired in 2006, F1 was a burden for him. Now I can sense his old enthusiasm.”
On Rosberg, finally, the 55-year-old added that 'there's no doubt Nico also has the capability to win the title', whilst predicting a 'very interesting' internecine duel between the two countrymen under his guidance in 2010.