Schuey back in driving seat

Seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is back.

The motor-racing legend has signed a one-year contract to drive in 2010 with Mercedes GP, ending three years in retirement.

The announcement comes 11 days ahead of Schumacher’s 41st birthday on January 3, easily making him the oldest driver in next year’s championship.

Schumacher said: "The motivation is pretty straightforward. I got a call from Ross (Brawn, team principal) at the beginning of November asking me to race again, telling me Mercedes were going to be involved.

“I’ve never left the race track, and after three years I regained the energy I’m feeling now. After playing around on motorbikes, I’m ready for the serious stuff.”

Schumacher was poised to make a comeback with Ferrari in the summer to fill in for the injured Felipe Massa, but had to back out because of a neck injury which he now insists is not a problem.

“Before giving the final okay, I had to make sure my neck was okay,” he said. “It wasn’t okay in the summer, but it’s had the time to heal completely.”

Today's news finally ends the speculation that has surrounded the German over the past few weeks since the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in early November.

Schumacher was seen in talks with Daimler boss Dieter Zetsche and Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn in the paddock of the Yas Marina circuit.

Just a fortnight later, Mercedes had taken over Brawn and new world champion Jenson Button was on his way to McLaren.

That further opened the door for Schumacher, the most decorated man in F1 history, with the rumours intensifying.

For Schumacher, a seed was sown in August when he proved to himself in driving a 2007-spec Ferrari that he still retained the necessary speed, stamina and reflexes to again drive at the highest level.

That was in preparation for a return with Ferrari as president Luca di Montezemolo had convinced him the team’s need was great in the wake of Felipe Massa’s horrific accident in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

However, during a bike test in Spain in February as Schumacher attempted to prove his prowess on two wheels, he suffered a neck injury that prevented him from competing in the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Despite the setback, and given his natural racing instinct has never deserted him since his final grand prix in Brazil in 2006, Schumacher is understood to have maintained a punishing fitness regime.

According to manager Willi Weber he is now “super fit”, with his neck offering no lingering problems.

Schumacher has also now severed the ties that have binded him to Ferrari since he joined the team in 1996.

Di Montezemolo recently paved the way for his exit when he confirmed earlier this month he would not hold Schumacher to his contract as advisor to the team and ambassador for their road car division.

Schumacher’s return sees him again join forces with Brawn, the Mercedes GP team principal, and the man who was the mastermind behind his seven titles – two with Benetton and five with Ferrari.

During his previous 16 seasons in the sport, incorporating 249 grands prix, Schumacher managed to break virtually every record.

Schumacher has won the most world titles; most race victories (91); most pole positions (68); highest number of wins in one season (13 in 2004); number of consecutive podiums (19); wins from pole (40); fastest laps (76); hat-trick of pole, win, fastest lap (22), and most number of consecutive results in the points (24).

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