Michael Schumacher will test a Formula One car in earnest next week for the first time since his retirement at the end of last season. Schumacher will get behind the wheel of this year’s Ferrari F2007 as part of the team’s 2008 preparations.
The seven-time world champion is expected to spend two days at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya in Spain, during the first multi-team test since last month’s Brazilian Grand Prix, which saw Ferrari and Kimi Raikkonen wrap up the ’07 constructors’ and drivers’ titles.
Schumacher has remained part of the Ferrari family since quitting competitive racing just over a year ago and he attended several Grands Prix this season in his role as “special advisor” to the Italian team. While next week’s test will be partly for pleasure, the German could also make a valuable technical contribution for 2008, when traction control will be outlawed from Formula One racing.
Schumacher, 38, retired from Formula One at the end of the 2006 season after winning 91 Grands Prix in the most successful career of any driver. The German has stayed out of the limelight since, although he attended several races this year as a Ferrari technical adviser.
F1’s rules are changing next season, with the introduction of a common electronic control unit (ECU) to be used by all teams. The new ECUs will not include electronic driver aids such as traction control, which was re-introduced to the sport in 2001. Traction control has been allowed in the sport since the 2001 Spanish Grand Prix – meaning Ferrari’s current two drivers, world champion Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa, have only limited experience of running without it between them. Raikkonen drove the first four races of his F1 career without it, while Massa has only driven with traction control. Schumacher – incidentally a staunch advocate of traction control – raced when the device was last banned (1993-2001), making his experience next week invaluable.
Schumacher’s input into the team’s work ahead of 2008 will prove particularly useful in Spain as F1 begins a new era without traction control and other “driver aids”. "Michael has a big experience in driving cars with no traction control and no electronic aids, so it makes sense for him to give his input," Schumacher’s spokeswoman told news agency Reuters.
Schumacher has driven the F2007 on one previous occasion when he put in a handful of demonstration laps for Fiat bosses at Ferrari’s Fiorano circuit in Italy recently.