Following the sensational announcement that Michael Schumacher will race for Mercedes F1 next season, he took time to explain his decision to end his three-year retirement.
Here's the interview in full:
What has motivated you to come back?
The motivation I think is pretty straightforward - the call I got from Ross [Brawn] at the end of November concerning the chance in my hand to go racing. Having this phone call from him, and the circumstances of Mercedes-Benz being involved as the owner, I felt great.
I never left the race track. I was tired of F1 by the end of 2006, but after three years of absence I have been getting back all the energy that I am feeling right now. I played around with motorbikes, and I feel ready for some serious stuff now.
What is the situation with your neck?
It is obviously a topic where I understand the question, and I want to understand myself. Before I gave the final okay, I made sure that I worked it out to be sure myself. And I can say 100 percent that the neck is no further an issue.
Unfortunately it was too close to the accident in the summer when I tried for Ferrari, but time now is enough for it have healed completely. And everything I've done, I can do. I have used machines that I used to use with no problem.
Do you feel that you have the same speed as before, and that single-minded purpose to race wheel-to-wheel with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso?
I am absolutely confident on this one. When I got into a kart for the first time after my motorcycle crash I was straight away on the pace. I have to prove it in real terms, but going wheel-to-wheel with these guys will be thrilling and exciting. It is something I look for - and the great thing is to get support from the outside. They have no doubt about my ability.
What does it mean for you to leave Ferrari and join Mercedes-Benz?
This has not been an easy step, honestly. I have lots of friends at Ferrari after the 14 years that I have been working there, and have good memories of my Ferrari days.
I think the only reason I sort of seriously thought about my return was because of old friends who asked me. We also had a situation where Mercedes-Benz gave me the chance to enter F1 and over the years it was never possible to race for them. Finally now a combination of Ross and Mercedes makes it possible to work together and I am happy to be able to give something to Mercedes after the early days.
You have a phenomenal reputation after all your success in F1. Do you not worry it will be put on the line next year, and people will not judge you on what you did before?
I hope they will judge me on what we have done before - and I am going into this exercise with the same opinion. Mercedes GP is a team that has won both championships this year - and we have Mercedes as a strong partner. Our aim can only be to fight for the championship. There will be strong competition, as we have seen, but I am thrilled to be back into this one.
Did you ask your family about your F1 plans - did you consult your wife and kids?
Obviously. It is natural that you have to sort out the personal situation before you enter this one. Everyone was thrilled - and my wife has always been keen to see everyone happy. She didn't really argue at all.
How long will you drive for Mercedes-Benz?
We are talking about a three-year deal. It is not a one-off thing. We are obviously looking for continuation.
What have been the factors in you deciding to make an F1 comeback now? In the past you have said you did not have much interesting in returning.
I was out of energy by the end of 2006. I needed this time off. I wasn’t thinking about coming back, and I could not have imagined what would happen. I played around in many areas and had a lot of fun. But due to the special combination now, I thought why not?
How would you rate your chances of being champion again - and who are your biggest rivals?
Normally you have to mention the four teams that fought for the top positions this year. They will be the ones fighting again next year. It will be a tight fight - but people have trust in me.
Do you think the competition in F1 is tougher now than it was three years ago?
It is probably more tight. But tougher? No, why? There have always been tough drivers.
Have you been in the Brawn GP simulator yet, and what are you expecting from the new generation of F1 cars?
No, I have not been in the simulator, other than my personal one - the personal training machine that I have. The cars will be slightly different, but I have been in so many different characters of cars over the years, and a strong part of myself is that I am able to adapt to whatever the circumstances are.
If there had been no space at Mercedes GP for next year, was there another option. Did McLaren offer you anything?
I think there would have been no other teams seriously considered, no.
If you do come back and win races and the title, do you think that will be your greatest achievement?
It will be certainly a unique experience and a unique achievement. So let’s get behind the wheel first and talk later.