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Michael Schumacher says he is driving as well as ever

Michael Schumacher
Schumacher says he needed some time away from F1 to refresh himself

Michael Schumacher says he is driving as well as ever as he prepares for a Formula 1 return with Mercedes this year after three years away.

The seven-time champion said a test in a GP2 car in Spain last week went "better than I had expected".

The German, 41, told his website: "I immediately felt well in the car. It was as if I never was gone."

He has also swapped car numbers with team-mate Nico Rosberg because he did not want to race with an even number.

Rosberg was initially given number three after becoming the first driver to sign to race for Mercedes in 2010.

But Schumacher, who won all his titles with an odd number on his car, has claimed he is superstitious about even numbers.

"Michael has a preference for odd numbers," a team spokeswoman said. "He asked if he could be the odd number and we were happy to accept."

It did me a lot of good to be extremely quiet for those three years - it really is as if my batteries were fully loaded

Michael Schumacher

She said F1's governing body the FIA had approved the switch, with Schumacher now having number three on his car and Rosberg four, and a new list would be issued in due course.

Following his GP2 test, Schumacher said the neck injury which had prevented him making a temporary return last summer had fully healed.

He had planned to stand in for Ferrari's Felipe Massa after the Brazilian suffered a fractured skull in an accident at the Hungarian Grand Prix, but was forced to call it off because of the injury suffered in a motorcycle crash in February 2009.

But on Wednesday he said: "The after-effects of that accident have been gone for a long time - that's why I was sure that the neck would not cause any problems.

Michael Schumacher drives a GP2 car
Schumacher spent three days in a GP2 car last week

"This was one year ago; it's over.

"I have been practising physically very carefully since December and feel extremely fresh and fit.

"That was one of the reasons why I felt so good in the car in Jerez.

"But then Formula 1 is another thing. The g-forces are higher; it's not really comparable.

"That is why I look forward so much to testing [the new Mercedes F1 car] in February. Only then will the old feeling be completely back. I can't wait to be back there."

Schumacher's new team, who won both world titles as Brawn last year, will run their 2010 car for the first time at Valencia on 1 February.

Mercedes have not yet confirmed who will drive at the three-day test, but Schumacher's team-mate Nico Rosberg is expected to drive the car first.

Schumacher reiterated his aim to win the world championship in his first season back.

And he explained in more details the reasons for his return.

Schumacher had repeatedly said since his retirement that he could not imagine coming back to F1.

But he explained that was more to do with the demands on him outside the cockpit than in it.

"After my retirement in 2006, I was very happy," he said. "I felt relieved, just like [I had been] freed.

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"I enjoyed the feeling because, especially in the last two years, F1 had demanded a great deal from me - not the racing, that I loved all the time, but all those things which relate to living under constant observation.

"It did me a lot of good to be extremely quiet for those three years. It really is as if my batteries were fully loaded.

"My energy is back completely. I really notice how the prickle is coming, how motivated I am because I so much look forward to the competition. It is about time to start this whole thing."



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see also
Schumacher 'very happy' with test
14 Jan 10 |  Formula 1


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