Michael Schumacher Returns To Formula One To Replace Badly Injured Ferrari Driver Felipe Massa; Gearheads Worldwide Experience Chills
The news that Formula 1 legend Michael Schumacher will return to the track and replace injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa has fired the imagination of those in and around the sport.
The seven-time world champion will come out of retirement to step into the breach after Massa fractured his skull during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix and will cover for the Brazilian’s expected absence until the end of the season.
The German’s first race will be the European Grand Prix in Valencia on 23 August, where he will face British world champion Lewis Hamilton for the first time, as well as former foes Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello and Kimi Raikkonen.
Here, BBC Sport gathers the reaction to the 40-year-old’s comeback from the great and the good of F1.
NIKI LAUDA, Three-time F1 world champion
“The return of Michael Schumacher is such a massive sensation that Bernie Ecclestone should pay him half his wages. Has there ever been anything more exciting in motor racing?
“I am not saying that Michael will win because that depends on the speed of the car but I have absolutely no doubts about his ability to perform as well as ever.
“I was 33 when I came out of retirement and he is 40 – but you are what age you want to be. I have no concerns about his reflexes. He will be brilliant.
“The most interesting thing will be to see him up against Kimi Raikkonen in the other Ferrari – who will be faster? Put it this way: Kimi has to get his act together or be shown up.
“After all the politics, the return of Michael Schumacher is the best thing for him, Ferrari and Formula One. Watch him get in and go.”
JOHNNY HERBERT, Former F1 driver and Le Mans 24 Hours winner
“He looks after himself anyway, so I’m sure his fitness level will be to a high performance anyway but it’s the extra little thing he needs to do before he gets back into a car.
“Also, at least he’s doing from Valencia to the end of the year so it’ll give him time to get back into the situation or driving an F1 car and everything that comes with at the race weekend.
“He’s got everything to gain – Ferrari haven’t a won this year so if he comes out of retirement and wins for them this year, he’ll be the biggest god in Italy for sure.
“It’d be awesome if was able to do that, but I think it’ll be very hard – he’s got a very tough team mate to have in Kimi Raikkonen, it might wake him up.
“The other guy who was disappointed when he retired in 2006 was Lewis Hamilton, he always wanted to go against him, now he’s got the chance.”
MAURICE HAMILTON, BBC Radio 5 Live F1 analyst
“Schumacher’s canny racing brain, his ability to think of several things at once while driving at 175 mph, will be as sharp as ever but his fitness will not.
“No amount of graft in the gym will act as a substitute for time spent in the cockpit.
“That burning competitiveness, which clearly has not been extinguished by racing a motorbike and frequently falling off it while being an also-ran, will play havoc with Schumacher’s pride if, as suspected, his presence motivates Kimi Raikkonen like never before.
“In the past, the driver in the other Ferrari was number two, even if he dared to be faster, and knew his place. It would be a brave man who suggested to Raikkonen that he should fall into line.
“It is a splendid story for sport, for motor racing, for F1 – but not necessarily for Michael Schumacher in the long run.” MURRAY WALKER, F1 broadcasting legend
“It’s a gigantic mountain for even him to climb.
“I have no doubt that he will be physically fit and I don’t doubt that he’s mentally on top of it.
“It’s just that he’s bound to be rusty and he’s got very little time to catch up.”
JONATHAN LEGARD, BBC F1 commentator
“You’ve got to remember that Michael Schumacher just loves competition. I spoke to him last year about him racing bikes and it was clear that he did it mainly for the competition.
“The temptation was clearly too great. Once you’re a racing driver, you’re always a racing driver – you always have that competitive instinct.
“The cars have changed and are different to what he left in October 2006 but I can’t believe that it will take him too long to blow away a few cobwebs. Whether he can be a winner is another matter.”
EDDIE JORDAN, Former F1 team boss and BBC pundit
“Michael Schumacher is absolutely hard core.
“I think whether he is 20 or 40 years old makes little difference.
“His reactions may be a millisecond away but then he was a millisecond better than everyone else previously so I think he’s just levelled it out.
“Well done to Ferrari for making this happen but especially well done to Michael because he has nothing to gain out of this and a lot to lose.
“I’ve been massively critical of Kimi Raikkonen and I think this is going to be the big wake-up call for him.
“You will see a new Raikkonen because he will not want to be disgraced by Michael.
“In fact, it could rejuvenate the whole of the Ferrari team, which has been a bit lacklustre this year.”
JODY SCHECKTER, Former F1 world champion
“Niki Lauda came back and won the world championship, so it’s not impossible.
“He’s been trying to become competitive on motorcycles, which is probably more stupid. You’ve got to say he’s probably the greatest of all time in F1 so I would think he’ll be competitive pretty quickly.”
JOHN WATSON, Former Brabham and McLaren driver
“Michael will spend a lot of time in the Ferrari F1 simulator between now and Valencia.
“He’s not race fit but that simulator is almost as good as the real thing. Believe me, he will not go to Valencia unless he thinks he has not only a chance to pick up points for the team but also that he can win the race.
“There’s every chance he will be there for the rest of the season. Michael will be the best available to Ferrari – and he might be so good that they will offer him a drive for 2010.”