Bernie Ecclestone reckons the return of Michael Schumacher will make 2010 a "jaw-dropping" season, and is an enormous boost for the sport.
After recent negative headlines caused by manufacturer pullouts and the early 2009 political dispute, Schumacher's comeback with Mercedes, Fernando Alonso's switch to Ferrari and McLaren's pairing of World Champions Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button has created great excitement about next year's championship.
Ecclestone said this proves the strength of F1, and predicted an epic contest in 2010. "I always said that Formula 1 is a strong brand," Formula 1's commercial rights manager told the official F1 website. "It has demonstrated time and again that it can pull itself up by its own bootstraps. And, yes, all indications point to a jaw-dropping season. Fans will love it.
"I think it is fantastic for Formula 1 that [Schumacher] turned into a comeback kid. But at the same time I also think that it's good for Michael. When drivers have put in many years they sometimes lose focus and motivation – probably that was one of the reasons for his retirement in 2006 – but now he has again put all his strength together and has a 100-percent motivation level and that will give us many exciting races in 2010."
Ecclestone is confident that Schumacher will be a title threat, noting that his development skills could be a key asset for Mercedes.
"Forget about winning races – I have him on my bill for winning the championship," Ecclestone replied when asked if he thought Schumacher would be a winner next year. He will be of immense value for the team to push the development of the car. We have all seen in the past that he was never satisfied unless the car was in perfect condition. With his drive for the optimum and his deep technical understanding, he will save the team precious time."
And, despite suggestions that Mercedes' other driver, Nico Rosberg, will end up being overshadowed by his seven-time champion compatriot, Ecclestone believes Rosberg will gain from driving a car developed by Schumacher. "Nico Rosberg will be the one who will directly benefit from all this," said Ecclestone.
He added that confirmation of Schumacher's return had come as no surprise to him. "I was pretty sure that he would do it if his physical status would allow it," he said. "Now we know the answer."