Motorsport: Schumacher on track for return to big-time
Michael Schumacher yesterday reassured Formula One fans that all his senses were 'on full alert' after completing 52 laps behind the wheel of a GP2 series car.
Last season, the German had an abortive comeback when a neck injury sustained in a high-speed motorcycle accident put paid to his chances of filling in for Ferrari's injured driver Felipe Massa.
The seven-time world champion, is preparing to make a return to the sport at the age of 41 powered by Mercedes, who have completed a takeover of champions Brawn GP.
Cost-cutting restrictions mean that F1 testing is outlawed until next month, so Schumacher has headed to Spain for a three-day GP2 test to reacquaint himself with the kind of forces he can expect in an F1 cockpit.
And although bad weather brought a premature halt to proceedings in Jerez, he felt it was a worthwhile exercise.
"The day was good especially because after a long time I could drive again in a car that came almost close to a current F1 car," he said.
"Despite the weather not being what we all would have liked, all my senses were nevertheless on full alert -- this alone was worth it.
"I felt comfortable out on the track from the very beginning."
The test in Jerez continues for another two days, with Schumacher due to get his first taste of the new Mercedes Silver Arrow car in Valencia from February 1-3.
Red Bull, meanwhile, have confirmed that, like last year, they will not be attending F1's first group test, with the RB6 instead making its bow the following week.
Team principal Christian Horner claimed the move was aimed at allowing Adrian Newey, F1's most celebrated designer and the brains behind their much-copied RB5, an extra nine days worth of design and production time.
"The car is much more of an evolution of the 2009 car rather than the clean sheet of regulations that we had for last season," said Horner.
"But even so, with the refuelling change, we've opted to give our designers as much time as possible."
Meanwhile, disgraced F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jnr has announced that he will race in the American Nascar series next season.
The Brazilian was at the centre of the 'Crashgate' scandal that erupted last autumn when he claimed that he had been ordered by his Renault team principal Flavio Briatore and director of engineering Pat Symonds to crash his car deliberately at the 2008 Singapore Grand Prix.
Despite being offered immunity in return for a full confession -- which in itself has become a contentious issue, with F1's governing body having been found guilty of 'irregular' procedure during its investigation -- no F1 team came in with a firm offer for Piquet. (© Daily Telegraph, London)