Mike Stevens | Aug 6, 2009

FORMULA 1 COMMERCIAL boss Bernie Ecclestone believes Michael Schumacher will star on his return to the sport at the European Grand Prix in Valencia.

Ecclestone said the seven-time World Champion will immediately mount a challenge to established leaders on the grid and reaffirm why he is the most successful driver to ever grace Formula 1.

Speaking to Reuters, the 79-year-old said: “I think he's going to give one or two of them a driving lesson.

“He obviously wouldn't have decided to come back unless he thought he was going to be competitive and Michael is a competitive guy.

“He's always been super popular even though he won too many races and people said he was boring. He was never boring and he won't be boring now.”

Despite the fanfare that has greeted Schumacher’s return, his chances of making the grid at Valencia hinge on the status of his physical condition, and in particular his neck.

Schumacher has lost three kilograms as part of an intense fitness regime focused on gaining the muscular strength necessary to withstand the g-forces drivers must endure when steering an F1 car at full flight.

He wrote on his official website: “I already lost three kilograms even if it is also important to me to build up muscles. So all in all, the practice works pretty well.

“I only have to admit that my neck pinches a bit. We have to get a grip on that as health has priority - that's the clear arrangement made with Ferrari and, by the way, with my wife, too.”

Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt.
Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt.

This was confirmed by his spokesperson, Sabine Kehm, who admitted concerns remain over the status of Schumacher’s neck.

“It is not sure yet the neck will hold and the comeback can be started. It depends on medical investigations. Only after those will it be clear whether he will be able to drive,” she said.

Schumacher though has continued his preparations for a return by attending a test for Tony Kart with Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer.

The 40-year-old said karting will play a crucial role in accelerating his progress and helping him adjust to F1.

“There is nothing better for my preparations at the moment - in terms of steering wheel forces for example Karting is even more difficult than F1,” he said.

“And the fact that it has been boiling hot here is simulating the temperatures expected for Valencia. Luca is with me, and together we found again today that karting is just an awful lot of fun.”

Schumacher is poised to earn €1 million per race, with an additional €1 million bonus per race victory, while earning an extension to his contract as a team advisor.

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