While he may have retired from competitive racing, Michael Schumacher showed he has lost none of his speed as the seven-time F1 champion led the German challenge on the annual Race of Champions event at Wembley Stadium.

Schumacher teamed up with Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel for the Nations Cup event, with the mix of youth and experience carrying Germany all the way to the final against defending champions Finland.

Having set a lap record en-route to the final, Schumacher stalled his FIAT Punto Arbarth at the start of the opening heat which allowed Heikki Kovalainen to put the Finns one up, only for Vettel to then beat Marcus Gronholm at the wheel of his very own Focus WRC. Vettel then beat Kovalainen in the decider at the wheel of the ROC Buggy to give Germany the title for the first time.

"In the first heat of the final I just stalled the car and that was it!" Schumacher said afterwards. "Then I was waiting for Heikki to come back round so at least we could have some fun. I knew I could rely on Sebastian! Actually it turned out really good; the two young ones could fight whilst the two retired drivers could relax!

"There weren't any balls or any goals so it was a little bit easy for us to win at Wembley today."

Schumacher then stormed through the Race of Champions itself, beating Henning Solberg, Jenson Button and Sebastien Bourdais with a series of record-breaking lap-times to take his place in the final against defending champion Mattias Ekstrom.

Ekstrom took the first heat of the best-of-three final at the wheel of the Solution F but Schumacher then bounced back in the ROC Buggy to take it to a decider. However, back in the touring car, Ekstrom defeated the German once again, with Schumacher spinning into the wall coming out of the final turn while trying to close the gap down.

"It has been truly quite a thrill!" he reflected. "I've been here twice, and twice it has been a big pleasure. I wasn't so good in the Solution F; there is something with me where I need to see my wheels! I'm no good if I don't see them, I have been very bad in saloon cars in the past."

The German was also quick to point out that his run in the event didn't leave him hankering after a return to competitive racing, stating that he was more than happy to take part in events just for fun

"We came here to enjoy ourselves, to be here for a good reason: for the ICM charity and finally to race," he said. "We do this as well as we can and sometimes one is better than the others. We can all live with this because it's not a championship so there's no pressure.

"This is my first time racing after my retirement. In previous years if you race F1 you have a lot of pressure. You are determined and focused and at one stage, at this time of year, I just liked to switch off. In 2004 I could do it but normally after a season I'm just empty by the end of the year. Now it's different so I'm open for fun events such as this. I hope I get an invitation next year!"

 

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