With exactly one month to go before the world's best drivers descend on London's Wembley Stadium for the annual Race of Champions, Michael Schumacher has been warming up for his return to racing.

The German got back behind the wheel of a Ferrari grand prix machine during testing in Barcelona earlier this week - and immediately reminded everyone just why he is a seven-time Formula 1 World Champion by blitzing the field to storm to the top of the timesheets on both of his two days, despite not having driven an F1 car in anger since his retirement from the top flight at the end of last season.

When asked whether that absence would affect his performance in the Race of Champions - where he will go up against fellow motorsport heroes such as two-time World Rally Championship winner Marcus Gr?nholm, four-time Champ Car king S?bastien Bourdais and double World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx - Schumacher was unequivocal.

"Well, of course I hope not!" fired back the 38-year-old, who will partner young gun and F1 newcomer Sebastian Vettel at Team Germany in the RoC Nations Cup. "It might have even heightened my motivation to drive, as I have seen when testing the F1 car for Ferrari. On the other hand you never know; it is clear that practice helps a lot."

Having previously competed in the event at the Stade de Paris in France three years ago - when he was defeated by Renault's Heikki Kovalainen in the final - Schumacher is clearly looking forward to testing his mettle once again against the best in the world next month, when Wembley Stadium will be transformed into a tarmac race track to decide who really is the champion of champions.

"I can tell you I have never in my life had a bad feeling getting behind the wheel of a car," the 91-time grand prix winner added, displaying few nerves ahead of the showdown despite his esteemed reputation being on the line. "I look forward to finally getting out there - the Race of Champions is just a great event."

Other drivers confirmed as participating include Kovalainen, Red Bull Racing F1 ace David Coulthard, Honda star Jenson Button, 'King of Le Mans' Tom Kristensen, double DTM champ Mattias Ekstr?m, tin-top legend Yvan Muller and reigning NASCAR Nextel Cup title-holder Jimmie Johnson.

 

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