Michael Schumacher will get behind the wheel of a Formula One car for the first time since he came out of retirement when pre-season testing begins today. The 41-year-old will be among the drivers getting to grips with their new cars in Valencia, Spain, as preparations begin for the 2010 season, which starts next month in Bahrain. It will be the German's first chance to experience the Mercedes car he will race with teammate Nico Rosberg, and he is excited about the test sessions.
"Honestly, I can't wait until when we will officially run the car," he said. Unsurprisingly the seven-time world champion has not returned to the sport simply for the pleasure of racing. Victories and another championship are his goal. He added: "That is what we aim for but we have to deliver and that is our job." The three-day session will offer the first glimpse of Formula One's off-season shake-up, with the defending champion Jenson Button's move to McLaren-Mercedes to join 2008 winner Lewis Hamilton one of many driver changes.
The double world champion Fernando Alonso has switched to Ferrari, Robert Kubica, the Polish driver, has joined Renault, while Rubens Barrichello left Mercedes to sign for Williams and partner GP2 champion Nico Hulkenberg. Alonso will get his first experience in the Ferrari he hopes will carry him to a third world title, while it will also provide teammate Felipe Massa with his first official drive since a life-threatening crash last July before the Hungarian Grand Prix forced him to sit out the rest of last season.
Of the front-runners, only Red Bull are missing from the first testing session as they complete finishing touches to their chassis. Button will not get his first outing in a McLaren until Wednesday, a day after Hamilton. "Testing is going to be very, very important for the start of the year," said Button. Vitaly Petrov will become the first Russian to race in Formula One after former champions Renault named him as their second driver for the 2010 season.
Petrov, 25, was the runner-up in the GP2 support series to Germany's Hulkenberg, now with Williams, last year. and will partner Kubica. firstname.lastname@example.org