Schu gets down to nuts and bolts of F1 comeback
THE bookies have him third-favourite for the World Championship behind Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso and the great man himself is starting to talk the talk as he builds up to one of the biggest comebacks Formula One -- and sport -- has seen.
Michael Schumacher used to love the pre-season, checking with Ferrari to see how his new car -- his "new baby" -- was coming on, and he is following the same routine with his new team, Mercedes GP.
The seven-times world champion has just spent a couple of days at the team's headquarters at Brackley, in Northamptonshire, near Silverstone and he likes what he has seen.
The most profilic winner in Formula One history thinks that Ross Brawn's team are already hungry for more success and not resting on their laurels after winning the drivers' and constructors' titles last year.
"I have been in the factory in Brackley now for two days ... and I am extremely, positively surprised about how motivated everybody was," Schumacher said. "This is a world champion team but it does not seem to be spoilt by success at all; it all seems to be hungry for more instead."
Just like Jenson Button, his predecessor at Mercedes who is now on a get-to-know-you mission at McLaren, the German veteran has a lot to learn in Brackley.
"It is important for me to be informed about everything and it was very interesting to get to understand the engineers and their structures and the way they work," said Schumacher, one of the most technically-minded drivers, who loves to lead a team from the cockpit.
"I was there already around the time of the signature of the contract and learnt a lot. Now I have seen much more about the team."
Schumacher, who is just 41, also visited the Mercedes-Benz high-performance engines factory at Brixworth, where he was equally impressed with the mood of the staff. He admitted he felt at home in a German-owned operation.
"What I also liked was that you hear a lot of people speaking German there," he said. "That is nice for once. I am not so much used to that at my work and I find it quite convenient."
There was no comment on the new car but there can be little doubt that, with a career record such as his to perpetuate, Schumacher would not have signed for Mercedes unless he was happy with the competitive potential of the team's new machine.
A campaign of tasty on-track battles this year awaits, not least the renewal of hostilities between Hamilton, at McLaren, and Alonso, now installed as a Ferrari driver at Maranello.
Hamilton had a dig yesterday at his former team-mate, claiming that he thrashed the Spaniard during their bitter battle in 2007, something that Alonso would certainly dispute.