Schumacher flags Mercedes F1 bid

Michael Schumacher saunters back into the Formula One limelight in Mercedes overalls to kick off his bid for a record eighth title.

STUTTGART // Michael Schumacher sauntered back into the Formula One limelight in Mercedes overalls today to kick off his bid for a record eighth title at the ripe old age of 41. Returning to the centre stage three years after he retired, the former Ferrari driver looked trim and relaxed as he appeared alongside fellow-German Nico Rosberg at a presentation of the Mercedes GP team. "It's a great emotion and a great feeling I am getting," said Schumacher, the sport's most successful driver, in his first public appearance for his new team since announcing his comeback last month.

"Finally the 2010 Formula One season is firing up. "I have to say that I am totally committed to this new challenge. This season feels like a restart for me and I am so motivated." The car presented to the media at a livery launch was the 2009 Brawn GP that took Britain's Jenson Button to the title, repainted in the evocative 'Silver Arrows' colours of the team's new owners. The Mercedes museum was a fitting backdrop for a Mercedes-powered car, albeit largely designed by Honda, that carved its place in Formula One history by winning Brawn the constructors' crown at the first attempt.

The new Mercedes MGP W01, the first "Silver Arrow" since Mercedes last competed as a works team in 1955, will make its debut when testing starts at Spain's Valencia circuit on February 1. "I cannot wait to get into the car for the first time in Valencia," said Schumacher, who was shown in a video before the launch stepping out of a red Mercedes SLR sports car in a cheeky nod to his Ferrari past, in a team statement.

"I am convinced that Mercedes GP will be in a very good position to fight for the championships this season and I will definitely give it a go," added the German, who raced for Mercedes' sports car team before entering Formula One in 1991. "Driving for Mercedes-Benz again is like the closing of a circle for me as I started my racing driver career with the three-pointed star on my helmet. This is another reason why I cannot wait for the competition to get underway."

* Reuters