Wednesday, October 13, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
A twist in the championship tale
Michael Schumacher is back and raring to go
BBC Motor Racing Correspondent Jonathan Legard looks forward to Michael Schumacher's intriguing return at this weekend's first Malaysian Grand Prix.
From Silverstone to Sepang, from rehabilitation to remarkable recovery.
Michael Schumacher's racing return has twisted this championship tale when it appeared to have turned sour for Ferrari.
The circuit, purpose built some 40 miles south of Kuala Lumpur, is a temple to technology.
The pit complex is the most sophisticated in the world including 30 garages, air conditioned offices and the latest in microchip gadgetry.
There's also an on-site shopping mall and a spectacular double-sided grandstand capable of holding 30,000 spectators.
With Schumacher now among the cast list, the £70m construction bill already looks like money well spent.
The world will be watching and waiting for answers.
He'd even admitted he'd scared himself when he went off in testing at Mugello. And how often have you heard a racing driver do that, let alone one called Michael Schumacher?
One major consolation is that the Sepang circuit is unknown territory. None of the drivers have driven there so nobody can claim an advantage.
The new surface should be baby-bottom smooth and therefore kinder within the cockpit.
Nonetheless the risks remain the same. Ask Olivier Panis what it's like to race with a steel pin in your leg, knowing that your next accident could be your last.
If Schumacher is as ready as he says, and if he's as willing to assist Eddie Irvine as he says, then Mika Hakkinen and McLaren will need to be wheel perfect.
No tears, no tyrebursts, no pitstop muddles. David Coulthard has to become Hakkinen's best friend and ally.
Coming from a man who got it so famously right when others got it so badly wrong, Herbert is worth listening to.
But Schumacher could easily upset those calculations.
Without doubt his return will galvanise Ferrari. He always makes a difference to the car's performance.
He usually affects his rivals too. McLaren are sure to be looking down the pitlane more nervously than if Mika Salo was in car no 3.
It's a fact that Hakkinen could wrap up the title in Malaysia if Irvine fluffs again.
But it's my hunch that if Schumacher's up to scratch, then Suzuka beckons for another winner-takes-all finale.
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