German firm welcome back their former ‘apprentice’
Michael SchumacherAfter weeks of speculation Mercedes confirmed on Wednesday that Michael Schumacher will make a comeback to race for the team next season alongside fellow German Nico Rosberg.
Schumacher, who retired at the end of 2006, has signed a deal that will see him return to the Formula One grid at the age of 41, bidding to add to his record tally of 91 wins and seven world titles.
It follows a planned comeback earlier this year for Ferrari – the team with which he won his last five drivers’ championships – to replace the injured Felipe Massa. Those plans had to be abandoned because of a neck injury from a motorbike accident.
Now fully fit, Schumacher will revive his relationship with Mercedes, a company with whom he had close ties earlier in his career. The German carmaker recently purchased the 2009 title-winning Brawn GP team, retaining team principal Ross Brawn, who previously helped lead Schumacher to title glory at Benetton and Ferrari.
“Mercedes GP Petronas represents a new challenge for me both in a sporting and a personal context,” said Schumacher. “It is a new chapter in my racing career and I am really looking forward to working with my old friend Ross Brawn and my companions from my days with the Mercedes Junior Programme.
“I am convinced that together we will be involved in the fight for the Formula One World Championship next year and I am already looking forward to getting back onto the race track. For me, this partnership closes the circle. Mercedes supported me for so many years when I began my Formula One career and now I can hopefully give something back to the brand with the star.”
Ross Brawn commented: “I am delighted that we can confirm today that Michael will make his much-anticipated return to Formula One next year and drive for our Mercedes GP Petronas team. As seven-time world champion, Michael’s outstanding record in Formula One speaks for itself and I am looking forward to working with him again.
“With the completion of our driver line-up, I believe that we now have the most exciting partnership in Formula One with Michael and Nico, who provide the perfect mix of talent, experience, speed and youth. We can now turn our full attention to the preparations for the new season and everyone at Mercedes GP Petronas is extremely excited about the challenge ahead.”
Explaining Schumacher’s previous Mercedes relationship, Norbert Haug, Vice-President of Mercedes-Benz Motorsports, added: “In April 1991, when I had been in charge of the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport programme for just six months, Michael was standing beside me on the balcony one evening. Without the slightest doubt, he said in a low voice: ‘It’s about time that I got into Formula One’. Michael had just turned 22 years of age and four months later, he made his debut at Spa in a Jordan. Mercedes-Benz helped him to this point and the rest is history: seven world championship titles, more than any racing driver, 91 Grand Prix wins, more than any racing driver. Michael has more of everything than every other driver.
“As part of the Mercedes Junior Programme, Michael had raced in Group C sports cars and competed in a few DTM races. Ross Brawn, then our opponent at Jaguar, quickly realised Michael’s talent and they went on to win all seven of his drivers’ world championship titles together at Benetton and Ferrari. Our sporting ambition has always been that Michael should drive again where his professional career had started and Michael knew that. We often joked about it after the races and discussed the prospect seriously several times during the last 14 years in Formula One. It didn’t happen in 1995, it didn’t happen in 1998 and it didn’t happen in 2005. I am delighted that it will now happen in 2010. I am very much looking forward to working with Michael and everybody at Mercedes-Benz and Daimler extends a very warm welcome to our ‘apprentice’ of 19 years ago. That apprentice is now the most successful racing driver of all time.”