Schumi ready to roar into action

2010-03-09 00:00

JUSTINE Henin and Lance Armstrong have in recent times both returned from the sporting dead. Now motorsport fans are waiting in eager anticipation for the start of the Formula One season to see if Michael Schumacher can do the same.

Schumacher (or Schumi as he is known to friends and fans) will not be returning to Formula One to make up the numbers and he is as mentally and physically fit as he was when he retired in 2006.

In the confident manner all sporting icons seem to possess, the Mercedes GP number one reveals the secrets to maintaining his high standards of fitness.

“I think this is very much dependent on the sport you are in, but in general, if you have been disciplined over a long period of time, then there is no reason why you can’t be [again].

“I do not do extra mental training. It seems I can be happy in that respect. I have always been able to fully focus on something and to be positively stimulated by competition.”

Due to an intense and intriguing 2009 season, Schumacher’s comeback and the hotly contested pre-season testing, which saw Lewis Hamilton emerge as the fastest, the 2010 competition will blast off in Bahrain on March 12 like an expensive fireworks display.

And, after a month of testing in the MGP W01 — Mercedes GP’s 2010 car — the 2002 and 2004 Laureus sportsman of the year can’t wait for the action to begin.

“We are heading to Bahrain with a good feeling because we know our prospects for the first races are looking very reasonable now.

“I really notice how motivated I am because I so much look forward to this competition. It is about time to start this whole thing.”

The catalyst for his return to F1 was the aborted attempt to fill in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa in September last year. A neck injury incurred in a motorcycle accident earlier in 2009 kept him out that time, but he has now fully recovered.

“The after-effects of that accident are gone. I am sure that the neck will not cause any problems. This was one year ago — that’s over.”

The 1,75 m tall, 68kg driver is excited about being back and having the chance to race against the “new kids on the block”.

“I think the duels on the racetrack will be electrifying. My batteries have recharged completely during the last three years and I am geared up to compete on a serious level again.”

On the track, the man is deadly serious and on the start line withdraws into a zone of his own.

“I am so concentrated usually. I try to just go down to the bottom of that moment. Of course, sometimes you think about the start where you maybe expect to have problems or stuff like this, but in the end I try to have my mind empty.”

However, there have been times when his famed ice-cool mentality has let him down. Schumacher well remembers his collision with Jaques Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix. He turned in on the Canadian at a corner and crashed out of the race. There were huge ramifications for the German driver.

“I can recall it very well, the 1997 last race. I did not only lose the race but with it the championship — not a great moment.”

The Formula One road show roars to life on the Bahrain International Circuit this weekend, and the drivers themselves will now be burning to see some action.

Hamilton will be eager to test his talents against one of his boyhood heroes, and Mark Webber, to build on a landmark 2009. Sebastian Vettel is on an exponential growth curve that saw him win four grand prix events last year; Nico Rosberg will be keen not to be hidden in Schumacher’s shadow; and Jenson Button will be desperate to prove to all and sundry that the first title was no fluke.

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Ferrari were impressive in the first round of official testing in Valencia. But, after the completion of 16 days of testing, most of the teams seem evenly matched, and this leaves much to be pondered.

New drivers and new teams add spice to the already highly charged Formula One environment in 2010.

Lotus and Virgin take their place on the grid with a fierce rivalry already developing between the two as respective team principals, Tony Fernandes and Richard Branson, own rival airlines AirAsia and Virgin.

Former Red Bull test driver Karun Chandhok will drive for new Spanish team HRT alongside Bruno Senna, completing the 24-strong driver line-up for 2010. This makes him only the second Indian driver ever to compete in Formula One.

The 2010 season has been dubbed “England versus Germany” in reference to the contest between Button/Hamilton/McLaren and Schumacher/Rosberg/Mercedes, but Schumacher will also need to look out for other drivers and teams.

Schumacher’s suggested formula for success in the pinnacle of motorsport? “Simple — passion, talent and drive.” We are about to find out if this trilogy of traits can create a miraculous second coming for arguably the greatest Formula One driver ever.

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