Fri, Jul 31, 2009 - Page 20 News List

Schumacher set to return to F1, replace Massa at Ferrari

AGENCIES , ROME AND BUDAPEST

Former Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher falls with his Honda racing bike during a test ride at the Sachsenring racetrack near Hohenstein, Germany, on June 12.

PHOTO: AP

Seven-time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher will replace injured driver Felipe Massa at Ferrari if he passes a fitness test, the team said on Wednesday.

The German, now 40 years old, retired from Formula One at the end of 2006. All being well, he will make his comeback in Valencia, Spain, next month.

“Ferrari intends to entrust Michael Schumacher with Felipe Massa’s car for as long as the Brazilian driver is not able to race,” the Italian team said in a statement. “Michael Schumacher has shown his willingness and in the next few days he will undergo a specific program of preparation at the end of which it will be possible to confirm his participation in the championship starting with the European Grand Prix on Aug. 23.”

DRIVING LICENSE

Motorsport’s ruling body, the FIA, yesterday confirmed that Schumacher would be granted the Formula One driving license he needs if he is to race for Ferrari in next month’s European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Schumacher last raced at the Brazilian GP on Oct. 22, 2006 but, an F1 license automatically runs out at the end of each year. However, Schumacher qualifies under FIA Article 5.1.2a, which states that a driver can be issued a license if he has competed in a minimum of 15 races in the previous three years.

MASSA TAKES FIRST STEPS

Massa took his first steps on Wednesday, four days after the high-speed crash that left him near death.

“Felipe speaks, can sit upright and was even able to take his first steps,” Ferrari said in a statement. “From the clinical and radiological point of view, everything is going extremely well.”

Massa’s father, Luiz Antonio, said his son still doesn’t remember anything about the accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Brazilian driver and friend Popo Bueno said Massa had asked about his chances of racing in Valencia in three weeks, the next race on the F1 calendar.

“Friends and relatives want to see him well, at home, healthy. But the driver always wants to return to racing soon,” Bueno said.

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