Michael Schumacher and the England Football team

Fabio Capello - Silverstone 2009
© http://www.sutton-images.com

Fear not hearty England fans, Michael Schumacher has not replaced Don Fabio as manager of the national team. Things may be bad in South Africa… but they’re not that bad.

I was watching breakfast TV this morning, feeding my three month old daughter, when I saw Mary Portas, a British retail adviser, being asked for her opinion on where the England football team was going wrong. Seemed an interesting choice for an opinion on footy, so seeing as it is apparently open season for random people to be sticking their oar in, and given that I’m a sports reporter (albeit a motor sports reporter) I figure sod it – here’s my tuppence.

Right now, all I seem to be hearing is that England’s footballers are some of the highest paid sportsmen in the world, and as such they really should be sucking their guts in and getting on with the job at hand. They should be doing what they’re paid to do and should leave their egos at the door. They’re representing their country and have been given a huge honour. They’re not playing with the passion which wearing that shirt represents.

But haven’t we made a rod for our own backs here? If a footballer has a massive ego, isn’t that thanks, in no small part, to his massive salary? By turning footballers into demi-gods, have they not been set up on a pedestal from which they feel they can act in any manner they wish? That the normal rules don’t apply to them? That they are, in some way, above normal consideration?

Now I can’t answer yes or no to that question, as I don’t work in football. I work in Formula 1. But the impression that one has, as a fan of the sport and of the England football team, is that this might not be too far from the truth.

Certainly it was one of the reasons given for bringing in Don Fabio Capello, a hard task master who would pull the strings tight on the team, cut out the excess, deflate the egos, and get the players back to playing football.

Only, it all seems to have backfired, doesn’t it? The players aren’t playing with passion. They’re not playing as a team. They don’t look like they want to be on the pitch, they don’t look happy and they don’t look competitive.

And, if we’re completely honest, maybe (and I know this flies in the face of popular opinion right now) it is because they have had their egos dented. Perhaps, just perhaps, they need their egos fluffing. They need their perks, they need to be told they’re the greatest, and then maybe, just maybe, they’d play like they really were the greatest rather than holding the apparrent view of being no more than the Average Joes that Capelllo’s rod of iron seems to have instilled within them.

To my mind, the England football team is like Michael Schumacher. The talent is there, and it is clear to see – but it is a precocious talent, and one which needs be wrapped in cotton wool.

Michael Schumacher wins in France 2004
© http://www.sutton-images.com

Michael is the most successful driver in F1 history, but most within the paddock doubt that he is of a similar level in terms of out and out talent to the greats of old – the Clarks, Stewarts, Prosts, Sennas etc… Why? Because he had it put on a plate. He had a team built around him of designers who gave him the exact car he needed to suit his style. He worked with Bridgestone to create tyres that perfectly suited his style. He had a strategist who understood how he raced cars. And he had a team-mate who would be utterly deferential to his need to win at all costs. Ferrari was team Schumacher. And it worked. He wiped the floor with the opposition and dominated the sport in a manner never seen before and in a manner we may never see again.

This year, he’s back – a little older, a little rusty, but you don’t lose the talent that brings you seven world titles. He is, however, driving a car designed for Jenson Button which is being hastily modified to suit his driving style, but which has thus far not found the Schumacher sweet spot, and on tyres which have been designed for the sport rather than for him. And he is struggling.

And there’s the parallel with the England football team. They’re playing in a formation that doesn’t play to their individual strengths. Their best players are out of position. Their egos have been dented. They have lost their belief. And because of that, they are struggling. They may not have the talent of the greatest teams in history, but if, like Michael, everything is built around them to give their talent the best shot at showing itself, then surely the rewards will be reaped?

Which begs the question of why the team is so disillusioned with Capello’s style of management that they had to call crisis talks. If you’re in charge of a team, why would you not play to their strengths? Because being a hard ass can only get you so far.

Why play a formation that the players don’t like? Why play Steven Gerrard in a position in which he feels uncomfortable? Why leave Joe Cole out of the team when the players recognise him as one of the best playmakers the team has got?

It’s like Ferrari in the mid 2000s sending out Schumacher for a wet race in Monaco with Monza wing levels, slick tyres, and boots that are three sizes too small.

David Beckham (with JB and Victoria Beckham) - Silverstone 2007
© http://www.sutton-images.com

Personally, I don’t think Capello is quite as good as he’s made out to be. It seems as though his style just doesn’t gel with the players, be it because they’ve got massive egos that aren’t being fluffed or because of something far deeper. Personally though, I think the England team needs a manager who shares the passion of his players – and that means an Englishman. The team needs someone who understands football, but also understands the modern footballer. It needs a strong character, but one with empathy for the men he leads. In short, I think it needs David Beckham.

One of England’s strongest, most hard working and charismatic captains, the sight of him suited and booted and shouting at the players from the bench has, oddly, not looked out of place at the world cup. Instead, it seems almost natural. Like he’s always been there. Because with England seemingly lacking any real direction on the pitch and a seeming confusion over who the captain is and, after John Terry’s quotes yesterday, whether the team even feels as though it has or needs a captain, perhaps its captain should be its best captain of the last decade, Beckham himself, directing play not from the field itself, but from the dugout. The man’s taken stick for not being the sharpest tool in the box in the past, but a more intelligent football brain you will rarely find.

And as assistant coach, I’d appoint James Corden. Yes, James Corden. Why? Because the man’s a legend. He IS the voice of the fan. He IS the enthusiasm that has been so lacking from the team in the world cup. He IS the ego fluffer, the man who would believe in the impossible, who would reflect every fan in every pub in the land and rouse the spirits of the boys. Half time team talk? Give it to Corden. Yes he’s more noted for his comedy turns, but he’s a brilliant writer, his live TV shows he’s got a quick wit and a perfect feeling for situations as they arise, and a more fervent supporter of the team I doubt you will ever find.

So yes, I would pick Corden and I think he’d be amazing. He’s been to a few F1 races over the last few years and he always seems like the kind of guy you’d want to go out for a beer with. A genuinely good bloke. He seems to have a good relationship with the England players, too. He’d put them at ease, build up their spirits and then hand them over to Beckham to deliver the footballing genius that would see us achieve all that we dream. And if the team needed a boot up the posterior, who better than a man who is the embodiment of the ultimate England fan? And you know they’d go back out with a smile on their faces, even after a bollocking, and play with some joy.

So never fear. If England slump out of the world cup on Wednesday and Don Fabio walks away, it may not be the worst news in the world.

And if we stay in… any chance Beckham and Corden could stage a coup d’etat? I know, it even has a French name. And if they can kick off in the middle of a world cup and tell their football association where to go, then why on earth can’t Les Rosbifs?

Jenson Button and James Corden
© Sport Relief

Hooray for Schu…Macca

Michael Schumacher in the MercedesGP wind tunnel © MercedesGP

It’s official, then. Michael Schumacher WILL be making his return to a Formula 1 cockpit in 2010 with MercedesGP. The nay-sayers believed, right up until the last minute, that it wasn’t going to happen but we’ve got the confirmation in black and white and with some pretty pictures from the good people at the team formerly known as Brawn, formerly known as Honda, formerly known as BAR, formerly known as British American Racing, formerly known as Tyrrell.

We’ve now got the opportunity to witness something truly incredible. We’ll have the very best of the new generation taking on the man who many consider to be one of, if not the single greatest driver of all time. Schumacher himself never really got to compete with the greats whom he’d watched race as a kid. OK he got a few seasons against Senna and Prost, but that was it. Prost retired at the end of 1993 and Senna was ripped away from the world early in the 1994 season, and so there was never really that passing down of the mantle.

Similarly, Schumacher’s retirement at the end of the 2006 season meant we never got to see him take on Hamilton or Vettel, or to compete against the Kubicas or Rosbergs of the world in decent cars and with sufficient experience under their belts. Now we have Alonso in a Ferrari, the youngsters with the benefit of experience and with decent cars, and the old master making a return to a championship-winning team. The ingredients are all there for an amazing 2010 season.

There are still those, however, who say it’s a bad idea, that he’s on a hiding to nothing, that he’s too old… that it’s all one horrible mistake.

I couldn’t disagree more, however. And I’ll tell you why.

Last night I got to witness something I never thought I would see. A Beatle, and not just any Beatle but my favourite Beatle, live, in concert. Sir Paul McCartney rocked out the O2 in London last night, and my wife and I had managed to get tickets. It was, without question, the best gig I have ever been to.

Me... at the gig... and very, very excited!

That McCartney would be so superb however was not a given. I may be an almighty fan, but I’m not naive enough to have gone along believing that time would not have taken its toll on the performance. But, incredibly, it really hadn’t. He didn’t miss a beat all night. His voice was clear and strong and he nailed every note… even the high ones. He turned his hand from his classic Hofner violin bass, to rhythm and lead guitar, ukulele, mandolin and piano. He looked amazing, bounced around the stage, and almost lifted the roof off the venue.

And here’s the thing. He’s 67 years old. He’s been writing and performing music pretty much constantly for the past 50 years. He, along with the Beatles, changed the face of modern music. They were the first band to break the mould of writing their own music rather than being given songs to sing. With their show at New York’s Shea Stadium they pretty much created the modern stadium gig, and when they realised they couldn’t be everywhere at once and started sending promotional videos to TV stations when they released songs, they pretty much invented MTV and the music video.

And there he was. On stage. Still giving it all he had. The old songs sounded amazing, but the new songs sounded just as incredible. He remains relevant (one of his new tunes has just been nominated for a Golden Globe) and at 3 hours in length his show put the likes of MUSE (90 minutes) and Kings of Leon (an hour) to shame. And they’re supposed to be the best live acts in the world right now!!! McCartney was called back on stage three times for encores. Three times. It blew me away.

Paul McCartney @ the O2

It’s funny though, because with today’s news that Mr Schumacher is making a comeback to F1, I see something of a parallel between the two.

Both have changed the way we view the worlds to which they have dedicated their lives. They’ve both been through the mill and done things that, in hindsight might be considered to have been ill thought through. For Michael there’s Adelaide ’94, Jerez ’97 and good old Rascasse in Monaco, while for McCartney there’s the Frog Chorus and a couple of dodgy duets with Michael Jackson. Neither one of them is as young as they used to be, or as young as the majority of people who now rule their industry.

But they’re both the very best at what they do. They are inspirations as much today as they ever have been, and their desire to keep working at the very top level only adds to their mystique and their legend.

For me, I’m just delighted however. I never thought I would get to see McCartney in concert, but I have. It was a truly awe-inspiring event and one I will remember for the rest of my life. Similarly, my journalistic career has been such that I never really got to sink my teeth too deeply into Formula 1 when Schumacher was around and racing. I was still very young, and very green. His comeback gives me an opportunity I thought had slipped away forever – to watch and write about one of the all-time greats.

I had waited 28 years for last night’s concert, and it could have been one almighty let down. But it wasn’t. It was completely the opposite. And that’s the barometer of class. That kind of talent never falters, never gives any less than 150%, and always leaves you wanting more.

I hope that when Schumacher comes back next year for his encore performance, we are left on our feet, applauding something tremendous. And something tells me he wouldn’t be coming back at all, if he didn’t have some great memories to leave us with.

Schumacher’s comeback test

Michael Schumacher © http://www.sutton-images.com

There’s a lot of noise at the moment following a report in Britain’s The Mirror newspaper, claiming that Michael Schumacher is on the verge of conducting a test in a GP2 car in Abu Dhabi, as part of his preparations for an incredible return to Formula 1 in 2010 with Mercedes.

The article was written by Byron Young, all round epic bloke and bloody good journo, and given how far ahead of the game he’s been on this whole Schuey comeback thing, you’ve got to take this story seriously because his sources thus far have been utterly impeccable.

With recent quotes from Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo stating that Schumacher had told him there is a “very, very, very strong possibility” of him coming back to F1 with Merc next year, it seems that the German’s presence in the sport in 2010 is all but a formality… or is it?

Let’s not forget that it was only a matter of months ago that we were last talking about a Schumacher comeback; one which, ultimately, was curtailed by injuries the German had sustained in a bike racing accident. The basal skull fracture he picked up meant that his vision became impaired whenever he went over a bump in his test at the wheel of a Ferrari F2007. And when you consider that at racing speeds an intolerance of a few millimetres in the road surface will feel like a speedbump, his entire F1 test must have been one blurred nightmare.

His need to test before agreeing on the Merc contract, therefore, must be for safety and medical reasons for if his injuries have not healed to the extent that both he and his manager Willi Weber hope and believe, this comeback ‘aint going anywhere.

But is he going to be testing a GP2 car? To be honest, it is not as simple as it might at first seem.

GP2 regulations are quite clear in regard to testing. Teams may only run their cars in group test sessions, and the next one of those isn’t until March, one month after F1 testing resumes. What about the old cars, then? Well they’re also a no go. The 2005-2007 iteration of the GP2 car is now the GP2 Asia car, and as such is subject to the same testing regulation. The next GP2 Asia race is in February…again, after F1 testing resumes.

All of which leaves one option… a special, one off test, organised by the GP2 organisation itself for Schumacher to drive the GP2 development car. Interestingly, Schumacher would be following in the footsteps of one of his oldest rivals, as GP2 organisers placed 1996 F1 World Champion Damon Hill in the original GP2 development car back in 2005.

Damon Hill tests GP2 © http://www.sutton-images.com

Of course, I am sure that the guys over in Abu Dhabi would love to have Schumacher test out there, but the logistics don’t quite stack up for me. To my mind, putting Schumacher into the GP2/08 development car at Circuit Paul Ricard is by far the most sensible and achievable option. The car is probably the closest to F1 speeds available at such short notice, and I can’t see GP2 organisers turning down the opportunity of putting Schumacher into the car. The PR potential is staggering. The car is kept at the Oreca base around the corner and could be ready to run by this afternoon if required. Plus, at Ricard it is possible to alter the track to replicate different types of circuit – low downforce runs with long straights, high downforce runs with multiple corners and fast changes of direction… if Schumacher wants to test out the strength of his neck on differing tracks, there’s nowhere better in the world than Ricard.

Michael’s own people told me that they have “given up commenting on rumours” and a spokesperson for GP2 said that the current story was “a really nice rumour.” Nobody’s saying no, which suggests to me that talks are happening.

This Schumacher comeback really is on, then. The wheels are in motion. That said, just as his mid-season comeback was ultimately curtailed by ill health, so might his full time 2010 return. Personally, I really do hope that his injuries have healed and that this GP2 test,if indeed it happens, simply confirms rather than concludes this incredible story.

Michael and Mercedes

Felipe Massa’s kart invitational at the weekend provided evidence, as if it was ever needed, that Michael Schumacher simply doesn’t understand the concept of driving at anything less than 120%. Asked to come along and have a go by his long term pall Massa, the 2009 running of this annual event had an extra symbolism as it was the Brazilian’s first foray into competitive racing since his monster shunt at the Hungrian Grand Prix.

With the niceties over, Michael proceeded to wipe the floor with everyone in the first race. I think someone must have had a word with him after that, because Felipe managed to get the result he needed in the second race to take the overall combined victory. Everyone say ahhhhh.

It was the same at the Race of Champions, though. Stick Schumacher in a car, any car actually, and he’ll not only be competitive, he’ll be staggering. As the famous saying goes, there’s life in the old dog yet.

Massa’s karting event also showed us that Michael either likes playing games with the media or is seriously thinking about making a comeback to F1. Once again he refused to rule out making a return just as he has done since rumours first cropped up, and just as both Norbert Haug and Nick Fry avoided the issue when quizzed about Nico Rosberg’s 2010 team-mate.

And here’s the thing. It makes sense for Norbert and Nick to dodge the issue because it gives the new Mercedes team massive headline potential. It ensures the team remains the biggest news in F1. From a PR perspective, having Schumacher linked with the team is invaluable. By simply refusing to comment on the rumours, the suggestions of what might be simply compound and evolve. It makes sense for Merc to be doing it, but why would Michael do the same?

One of his biggest personal backers, Shell, are a Ferrari team sponsor. So why piss them off, knowing full well that the new Mercedes team will have backing from Mobil 1? If this is a negotiation tactic in his talks over a new Ferrari contract, it is a dangerous game. But maybe Michael doesn’t really want to stay at the Scuderia.

We know that all is not as once it was at Ferrari. Gone are the days of Mr Jean Todt, and into his place has stepped a new regime. The Domenicali era has little in common with the Todt-Schumacher face of Ferrari. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s the arrival of a certain Fernando Alonso to factor in to the already complex situation. Exactly what Michael does at Ferrari and to what extent he plays a role with the F1 team has never been more in question.

We should not be surprised, therefore, to learn that Mercedes has reportedly offered Schumacher the chance to play any role he wishes at the team. If he doesn’t want to race, he can be whatever he wants and, one would imagine, would be free to name whatever price he wishes. Again, the PR of Mercedes stealing the legend back from Ferrari would be vast. If Mercedes really does want to establish itself as a German super team, Michael Schumacher’s involvement with the outfit would give it unrivalled gravitas in Germany.

Of course, it wouldn’t be the first time that Schumacher and Mercedes have gone racing together. Almost 20 years ago, at the end of the 1990 season, Schumacher joined the Mercedes Junior Racing programme, and raced the Sauber Mercedes C11 and C291 in the World Sportscar Championship and Le Mans, coming fifth.

But the big question is whether or not Michael Schumacher, seven time F1 champion, would be willing to make a comeback. What sense would it make for him to do so after three years on the sidelines? He has achieved everything there is to achieve in Formula 1, and his reputation will live on forever. Why risk all that hard work on a foolish venture which could end in misery?

Schumacher himself has admitted that his anticipated but ultimately failed comeback with Ferrari in 2009 was born more out of passion than common sense, owing to the basal skull fracture he sustained in a bike racing accident. But the fact that he had even put himself through the immense stupidity of testing an F1 car knowing how severe his injury was gave us an insight into the brain of Michael Schumacher. For here is a man who lives for the thrill of competition. And without it, he is stagnating.

Schumacher had his Formula 1 career taken from him before he was truly ready to throw in the towel. Backed into a corner by Ferrari’s signing of Kimi Raikkonen, he had a tough choice to make of either quitting to allow his apprentice Massa to race on, or to stay on himself and ruin Felipe’s career. In the end he chose to step aside, and just to make double sure that he wouldn’t go back on his promise, Ferrari didn’t even let him make the announcement himself. They issued a press release as he was on his slowdown lap at Monza in 2006. Watch the replay of that post-race press conference with that in mind and you’ll see it in a whole new light. Those aren’t the reactions of a man emotional to be announcing his retirement. That’s not the forthright, strong, self-assured Michael Schumacher who never apologised to anyone for any one of the questionable things he’d done in his career on or off the track.

That was a man who’d had the rug pulled from under him.

Formula 1 remains unfinished business for Michael Schumacher, and that is why I think there may just be a chance that this comeback is a serious prospect. Yes he’d be 41, but Gabriele Tarquini just won the WTCC title at the age of 47. Fangio won his last F1 title at the age of 46. Sure it was a different era, but ask yourself this. Is Michael Schumacher not one of the most talented drivers this sport has ever witnessed? Like him or loathe him what nobody can deny is the man’s staggering skill.

And, while you’re at it, ask yourself this… how incredible would it be to have Schumacher back in the mix? With Button and Hamilton at McLaren, Alonso and Massa at Ferrari, don’t tell me you wouldn’t salivate over the prospect of Michael Schumacher in a Mercedes (Brawn). All that’s missing is Kimi, but a Citroen C4 probably won’t be hugely competitive in F1 next season.

Force India’s confirmation that Adrian Sutil will stay on alongside Tonio Liuzzi next season takes one of the Germans out of the equation for the superteam at Mercedes. All that’s really left on the table are the services of Nick Heidfeld and Michael Schumacher, if Ross Brawn is to be taken at his word and we assume that the team is looking for experienced F1 drivers, and we listen to Norbert Haug and assume that they need to be ones with German passports.

Yes there are other drivers out there, notably Robert Kubica who reportedly has room to wriggle out of his contract at Renault, but do any of them match up to Michael Schumacher?

His management team have confirmed to me that Willi Weber’s comments regarding Michael’s health are correct and that the seven-time world champion will be fit enough to return to an F1 cockpit by the end of 2009. Testing restrictions mean he’d only get seven days of testing under his belt… but come on people… it’s Michael Schumacher.

Is it too much to dream? Is it a step too far? Is this all just some big PR stunt?

Frankly I hope not. Because it’d be absolutely brilliant, wouldn’t it?

Merc’s big surprise

A few days ago Mercedes boss Norbert Haug told German publication Bild am Sonntag that there might be some surprises in store when the new MercedesGP team announced its driver line-up for 2010.

Well yesterday’s confirmation that Nico Rosberg was joining the squad wasn’t exactly the surprise we’d been hoping for. Afterall, it had been a pretty poorly kept secret that the German was bound for Brawn, the only difference between when the news broke in hushed whsiper a few months ago and yesterday’s announcement was the departure of Button to McLaren, which made Rosberg Merc’s new team leader and left a vacant seat next to him.

The surprise therefore is over exactly who will partner Rosberg at Mercedes in 2010.

There’s been a lot of chat over Michael Schumacher making a return with the team which ran him in sportscars 20 years ago. It’s a beautifully romantic idea, but doesn’t add up. Quite apart from his health and the question marks over the strength of his neck, there’s the Ferrari contract, the protestations from Ross Brawn that it is never going to happen, and the confirmation from Michael’s own people that negotiations were never begun.

There are loud rumours that Mercedes will be a German super-team, to combat the English super-team at McLaren, and that Nick Heidfeld is the favourite to land the remaining seat at the team. While he’s hardly Michael Schumacher, Nick’s a safe and fairly quick pair of hands. He is an underwhelming choice however and hardly fulfils the promise of a shock.

Who, then, suits that description?

If Mercedes is still reeling from its failure to grab German wonder kids Vettel or Hulkenberg, they may well have their sights set on Adrian Sutil. At 26 he is still pretty young, and with the last year racing at Force India he has an understanding of the Mercedes powerplant. He’s marketable, like Rosberg, but one feels that Mercedes Grand Prix in 2010 would probably be a bit too pretty with both of them on board. They might as well rename the team Premadonna Grand Prix. No, I jest. They’re both solid, hard working guys. But are they a mega line-up? In all honesty, they are not a Hamilton / Button. Sutil still makes too many mistakes, and Rosberg still fails to get the most out of his cars.

Today’s announcement, then, that Force India will be testing Paul di Resta and JR Hildebrand in the rookie test days at Jerez could be a little more than appears at first sight.

First of all the announcement shows that Vijay Mallya’s promise to bring an Indian racing driver to F1 was worth fairly little. The team ran Hildebrand, Neel Jani and Karun Chandhok through a simulator test and promised a seat at the rookie test to the quickest driver. My sources tell me Chandhok was quickest, followed by Jani, and Hildebrand was plum last, by a fair margin. Jani (half Indian) and Chandhok (properly Indian) have both been passed over for the slower man. I’d wager it had something to do with finance. So much for your promise, Vijay.

The second driver at the test however is down to the team’s engine deal with Mercedes. Could Merc be using this test day to evaluate Paul di Resta for promotion to Formula 1? Could it be a genuine shot for the Scotsman?

Tonio Liuzzi has a deal to race for Force India next season. The team will have one spare seat, which looks likely to go to Sutil if he doesn’t go to Mercedes, and with Hildebrand and his finances looking good for the third driver seat at Force India or possibly even USF1, what are the chances that it is di Resta that ends up at Mercedes alongside Rosberg in 2010?

Don’t forget that di Resta beat Vettel to the F3 EuroSeries crown in 2006. His credentials are outstanding, but I have always questioned Mercedes’ common sense (or distinct lack of) in thrusting brilliant single-seater talent into DTM. how is one supposed to prepare for the pinnacle of single seater racing in closed wheel motorsport? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

There is one other possibility, however. Recent comments out of Renault boss Carlos Ghosn suggest all is not well chez Renault. The prospect of the team pulling out of F1 if it does not find a buyer for the team (or at least a substantial percentage investor) grows ever stronger. And if it does, that puts Robert Kubica back on the market. Could it be that Mercedes is simply playing the waiting game for the highly rated Pole? It’s not out of the realms of possibility.

So could di Resta be the shock Mercedes have promised? Will it be Sutil? Will we see the romantic return of Michael Schumacher or could Robert Kubica be with his third team in as many months?

It’s the only really big question left in this winter’s driver market. I just hope that the surprise is as big as we’re wishing.

Schumacher WILL replace Massa

Schuey's back baby! c/o Sutton Images

Schuey's back baby! c/o Sutton Images

It’s official.

The most succesful, and arguably the best, F1 driver of all time is set to make a remarkable comeback to Formula 1, two and a half years after hanging up his helmet.

“The most important thing first: thanks God, all news concerning Felipe are positive. I wish him all the best again,” he said on his official website.

“I was meeting this afternoon with Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe. Though it is true that the chapter Formula 1 has been closed for me since long and completely, it is also true that for loyalty reasons to the team I cannot ignore that unfortunate situation. But as the competitor I am I also very much look forward to facing this challenge.”

The decision to place Schumacher into the vacant seat left after Felipe Massa’ horrendous freak accident in Hungary, can not have been a difficult one for Domenicali and di Montezemolo to make. Between them, it’s been 15 years since either of Ferrari’s test drivers competed in F1. Add into the mix a competitive Ferrari, a need for a positive piece of PR and the need to stick a rocket up Kimi Raikkonen’s backside and it’s a brilliant placement.

Odds on Bernie’s pretty stoked too. Valencia was set to be a low-turnout event anyway, and with Alonso’s Renault team barred from competition, it had looked like the next race would be a bit of a non-event fanwise. But now? Oh now I’d say it’ll be a sell out.

As will Spa, and that most glorious of homecomings at Monza.

In other news BMW said they were pulling out of F1. I’ll deal with that more tomorrow.

Having spoken to a number of people in the know over the weekend, I left Hungary feeling that no matter how bonkers it sounded, Michael Schumacher would be making his F1 comeback in Valencia. And now I just can’t wait to get to Spain.

Bring it on.