Friday, 31 July 2009

The legend begins the preparations for his return

Seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher has began his preparations to mark his return to the Formula One track with the next race in Valencia.

The legendary German travelled to Ferrari's factory at Maranello yesterday to work at the Ferrari simulator, to check the functionality of the steering wheel and also presumably to learn the layout of the Valencia street circuit, where Schumacher has never driven before. Steering wheels in F1 cars are very different to the ones found in ordinary road cars. There are all sorts of buttons on the steering wheel to control different aspects of the car - everything from the pit radio to the pit-lane speed limiter and so on. As this year's regulations mean that cars now have KERS and movable front wings, all these functionalities are also controlled via buttons on the steering wheel.

Today, Schumacher is testing at the Mugello race track in Italy with the F2007 (Ferrari's 2007 Formula 1 car). Because the current in-season testing ban means that the teams are not allowed to do circuit testing with their 2009-spec cars, Schumacher opted to get some mileage in with the old car. The F2007 was borrowed from Ferrari's customer division F1 Clienti - one which offers wealthy enthusiasts the chance to drive old Grand Prix cars. Schumacher said on his website that although he cannot drive the F60 due to the testing ban, he still wants to get as much mileage in as possible. From next week onwards, he will continue to work on his physical fitness.

Although Schumacher has remained in top shape since retiring from Formula 1, he injured his neck early on in the year while doing a test session with a German Superbike team. Formula 1 drivers need to have very strong neck muscles to sustain the sheer amount of G-forces they encounter while driving, especially during breaking and cornering. However, it can be safely assumed that the 40-year-old German, who is statistically the best Formula 1 driver ever, is wise enough to have made a sensible decision on his come back. In other words, Schumacher would not have decided to come back to Formula 1 if he thought that he would not be fit enough, or that he would not have a chance to win. One thing is for sure, in spite of all the upgrades, Ferrari may not have the most competitive car this season, but with Schumacher at the wheel there is no doubt that he will be going flat out for a win. So once again, Ferrari may look towards Schumacher to get them their first victory of 2009.

Ferrari has also written to all their current rival teams and to the FIA to allow them to do one full day of official testing with the F60, in spite of the in-season testing ban. They argue that Schumacher has not driven in a competitive race since retiring in October 2006, and it is important that he gets to grip with their 2009 Formula 1 car before going into Valencia for the European Grand Prix. It remains to be seen whether the FIA, and the teams will allow Ferrari to do this.

It is 21 days to go to the start of the race weekend for the European Grand Prix, and me along with millions of other Schumacher fans around the world, cannot wait to see our idol/hero/God back on the track. As Germany's Bild newspaper had their headlines on Wednesday: "The God of racing is back. The legend will drive again."

I will leave you all with that. Drive safely everyone!

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