Schumacher to drive for Ferrari

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Michael Schumacher is to sensationally come out of retirement to race for Ferrari in the absence of the injured Felipe Massa.

Seven-times world champion Schumacher, now 40, has not driven competitively since the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in October 2006.

But Schumacher, who won five of his titles with Ferrari and who has been acting as an advisor to the team of late, will race in the European Grand Prix in Valencia on August 23.

"Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro intends to put Michael Schumacher in Felipe Massa's car until the Brazilian driver will be able to race again," Ferrari confirmed in a statement.

"Michael Schumacher said he is ready and, over the next few days, will undertake a specific training programme at the end of which confirmation will be given of his participation in the championship with effect from the European Grand Prix on the 23rd of August."

Schumacher, though, will first have to undergo a rigorous training programme as he is understood to still be recovering from neck and back injuries sustained in a motorbike test in Spain in February.

But he is more than happy to come to Ferrari's aid in their hour of need after Massa fractured his skull in a freak accident on Saturday in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Speaking on his official website, Schumacher said: "The most important thing first: thank God, all news concerning Felipe is positive, and I wish him all the best again.

"This afternoon I met with (team principal) Stefano Domenicali and (president) Luca di Montezemolo and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe.

"Though it is true the Formula One chapter has been closed for me for some time, it is also true that for loyalty reasons to the team I cannot ignore this unfortunate situation.

"But as the competitor I am, I also very much look forward to facing this challenge."

Schumacher's announcement comes a day after manager Willi Weber had categorically denied his client would step in for Massa due to the pressure that would be placed on him.

"Whoever sits in the car at the next race in Valencia, it will not be Michael Schumacher," insisted Weber.

"I am not 100 per cent sure; I am 200 per cent sure. The pressure on him would be huge.

"He would be expected to win, but he has not driven this car.

"When Michael was racing he would get as close to perfection as possible.

"In this case, it would not be perfection, it would be a gamble - and that's not Michael's style."