Schumacher to make F1 return with Mercedes

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The Independent Online

Retired seven-times Formula One champion Michael Schumacher has agreed a one-year deal to drive for Mercedes in 2010, according to reports in Germany. The German newspaper Bild said the driver, who retired in 2006, signed the deal at the team's offices in Brackley, England yesterday after a month of talks.

Schumacher will reportedly earn €7 million (£6.2m). Mercedes, who have taken over champions Brawn, have also signed Germany's Nico Rosberg for 2010 and Schumacher, who will be 41 in January, will return to F1 after aborting plans for a comeback with Ferrari this year as a stand-in for injured Brazilian Massa.

Ross Brawn guided Schumacher to all his seven titles as technical director and master strategist at Benetton and then with Ferrari. Schumacher also drove for the Mercedes sportscar team before breaking into Formula One.

Since his retirement the German has worked as a consultant for Ferrari. Schumacher had been due to return last season for Ferrari as a replacement for the injured Massa but was unable to because of a neck injury.

Schumacher's signature is undoubtedly a major coup for Mercedes and a blow to Ferrari. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo admitted last week he is distraught at the prospect of losing Schumacher to a rival team.

Di Montezemolo started working with Schumacher in 1996, when the German joined the Italian constructor from Benetton. It was the Italian who first suggested to Schumacher he stand in for the injured Massa after the Brazilian's horrific crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix in July. "It was me that rekindled his desire to race after Massa was injured in Hungary," the Ferrari chief had said.

Di Montezemolo admits he would have liked to see Schumacher back in a Ferrari but with Massa and Fernando Alonso already on their books for next season he simply could not offer the German a drive.

The German won the first of his World Drivers' Championship titles at Benetton in 1994 and and was successful with the Italian team again in the 1995 season.

In 1996, he transferred to Ferrari where he proved virtually unbeatable between 2000 and 2004, winning five further world titles and there will be huge interest in the impact Schumacher and Brawn will have now for Mercedes.

His former team-mate Eddie Irvine told the BBC last week that he expected Schumacher would win races, even though he would not be as powerful a force as before. "The speed will be there, though he won't be as fast as he was seven years ago," Irvine said.

"He's not at the peak of his game, but he's still good enough to win races as he has such an immense talent. It's still four wheels, a steering wheel and an engine and there's never been anyone better than Michael."