GERMAN LEGEND Michael Schumacher has stunned the motorsport community by announcing his comeback at the European Grand Prix at Valencia.
The 40-year-old answered an SOS-call from Ferrari management to substitute for the injured Felipe Massa until he is able to return to the F1 grid.
Although doubts remain over his fitness, Schumacher is set to embark on a strict fitness regime in a bid to improve his physical condition and withstand the rigours of Formula One racing.
After meeting with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and team principal Stefano Domenicali, the seven-time World Champion said he was unable to resist a return to the sport.
"For team loyalty reasons I can't ignore this unfortunate situation. It is true that the Formula 1 chapter has long been closed for me,? he said.
"The most important thing first: thank God, all news concerning Felipe is positive, and I wish him all the best again.
"This afternoon I met with team principal Stefano Domenicali and Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and together we decided that I will prepare myself to take the place of Felipe. As the competitor I am, I also very much look forward to facing this challenge.?
Despite retiring at the end of the 2006 season, Schumacher has remained actively involved in Ferrari?s F1 program, commencing a role as a team advisor while undertaking a limited testing role to provide technical feedback.
Schumacher last drove an F1 car in April last year, participating in a ten-team test at Barcelona, where he recorded the second fastest time on day three, behind Renault?s Fernando Alonso.
Although he would be unable to get acquainted with Ferrari?s F60 in the next four weeks as a result of the in-season testing ban, FIA regulations would allow Schumacher to conduct a series of familiarity sessions with the 2008-spec car.
Meanwhile, Ferrari has revealed Massa is set to leave intensive care after showing rapid signs of improvement.
The team said Massa's condition had shown significant improvement, including the ability to speak, sit upright and ?take his first steps.?
"From the clinical and radiological point of view everything is going extremely well,? the team said in a statement.