Michael Schumacher’s buoyant confidence about the Mercedes team’s prospects for the upcoming F1 world championship season spilled over this week, to the point where the 41-year old predicted that the former Brawn squad would be in a position to challenge for the world championship in 2010.

Which, translated, means that he thinks he will be able to bid for an amazing eighth title crown.

Schuey crash odds put at 40/1

Schumacher is certainly cast in the role of F1’s Peter Pan, although rather than being the little boy who never grew up, he is more the young man who never grew old. It’s not just his motivation which seems quite extraordinary, but the fact that he has kept himself fit and well-toned throughout three years of retirement out of the F1 game.

Looking for weak points in the Schumacher psyche may be a fruitless effort. But I was interested to hear from a good friend that the legendary Mario Andretti, having won the 1978 world championship at the age of 38, was aware as he went into his forties that it took slightly longer to recover to peak form for consecutive races.

With four back-to-back pairings on the 2010 grand prix calendar, should this offer a ray of hope that Schumacher could leave an unexpected Achilles heel uncovered?

Possible, but most improbable. Michael is determined to race for three more seasons, and possibly beyond. But Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Kubica will all be watching closely to see if there is so much as a smattering of vulnerability from the ‘Old Man.’

And when it comes to wheel-to-wheel combat it will be heart-stopping to see precisely who backs out first.

Bring it on!