Amid mounting media speculation and rumours, Ferrari confirmed on Wednesday afternoon that 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher will come out of his retirement to stand in for their injured driver Felipe Massa. In spite of the fact that Schumacher's manager Willi Webber continually denied the media speculations, Schumacher met with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro team principal Stefano Domenicalli on Tuesday to discuss the matter. At the end, after talking to Massa on the phone as well, Schumacher agreed to come out of his retirement to temporarily replace Massa until the Brazilian is fit enough to come back to racing again.
Over the next few days, Schumacher will undergo a very specific training programme to get him fully back to shape and to ensure that the motorbike injury he suffered early on in the year is not a problem anymore. His first race back will be the next round of the World Championship, which is the European Grand Prix in Valencia on 23rd of August. Although Schumacher has never driven in the Valencia street circuit, neither has he driven the F60 (Ferrari's 2009 Formula 1 car) before, it can be safely assumed that after winning 7 World Championships and 91 Grands Prix, it will not take him long to get fully back up to speed. Although because of the testing ban, he will not be allowed to do any test sessions with the F60 until Valencia, he can still take part in some straight line tests to get a feel of the car. Also the regulations do allow him to do a full testing session with the F2008 (Ferrari's 2008 Formula 1 car) to try and get fully back up to speed in a Formula 1 car. The last time Schumacher drove a Formula 1 car since his retirement was in April 2008, when he did a testing session with the F2008 in Barcelona.
This great news comes on the back of a remarkable recovery from Felipe Massa. His condition has been improving so well and so rapidly, that he has been taken out of the intensive care unit and may be even released from the AEK military hospital in Budapest by the end of the weekend. It was also confirmed by his doctors yesterday that he has now opened his left eye and there are no problems with it. They did some tests and the results showed that the vision in his left eye is intact. Massa also asked about who won the Hungarian Grand Prix last weekend, and also where did he qualify before the crash. When he found out that Hamilton came first, his reaction was: "But that was my race!" Just shows his true spirit and his competitive nature. Although the doctors did say that he could not remember anything about the crash, that is only a short term memory loss and nothing major.
Ferrari team princpal Stefano Domenicalli met with Massa again yesterday and told him that his red F60 will wait for him until he is ready to come back to racing again. The fact that Ferrari waited to make the announcement of Schumacher replacing Massa until he came out of intensive care, just shows how much the Brazilian is valued at Maranello.
For me, this is like my birthday and Christmas presents all wrapped up in one! I never imagined that I would ever get to see Michael drive for Ferrari in a Formula 1 race again. This is made all the more pleasant by the fact that Felipe is recovering so well and so quickly after such a horrendous crash. Until he returns to Formula 1 again, there could not have been anyone better to stand in for him on the track. Get well soon Felipe, and welcome back to Formula One Michael!
The street circuit of Valencia in Spain is hosting the next race of the World Championship, which is the European Grand Prix on the 23rd of August. I cannot wait! Until next time, drive safely everyone!