Can Michael Schumacher truly expect to be competitive on his return next month? He has not raced since 2006 nor even driven an F1 car since early last year, let alone one with KERS, slicks or the radically altered aero package introduced this season. And he’ll be the only driver on in the grid in his 40s.
In short I wouldn’t bet against it.
You can be sure he will have kept himself near enough race fit for the three remaining weeks to ensure he arrives in the correct physical condition, and while the testing ban precludes him driving this year’s car before Valencia, you can bet Ferrari will already have its nose buried in the rulebook to find out just how recent a car can be tested and what mods can be fitted to it.
One thing I do not doubt is that Schumacher will drive an F1 car hard, fast and for a very long time between now and then.
But while having Michael back behind the wheel is a fabulously exciting prospect, what interests me most is what effect it will have on his team-mate.
At the time of Schumacher’s retirement there was much disappointment that we’d never get a true comparison between Kimi and Michael and some speculation that the arrival of one at the Scuderia was dependent on the departure of the other.
Will Raikkonen feel no threat at all from the old soldier or will it give him the boot up the backside many (myself included) have felt he’s needed ever since he won the world championship?
Raikkonen may be as cool as they come and perhaps about to leave Ferrari and even F1 for good, but if Michael starts knocking out ferociously quick lap times over the days and weeks to come, expect Raikkonen to arrive in Valencia more fired up than he’s been since 2007.
And the battle between the two of them with no championship at stake is what may just make the return of Michael Schumacher most exciting of all.