This weekend seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher prepares for what will be his 18th British Grand Prix in a glittering career.
Since his return to Formula One in 2010 the mercurial German has had to adapt to a sport which is ever-changing, and a fortnight ago at the Canadian Grand Prix, he showed glimmers of the old master, claiming his first podium since 2006.
Below, Schumacher gives his thoughts on the upcoming race at Silverstone, the unpredictability of the 2012 season, and his life in F1.
It was great to see you back on the podium in Valencia. How did it feel to be up there spraying champagne again?
It felt really good. I kept the spraying to a minimum because I wanted to keep as much as possible in the bottle for my guys after the race, so I dropped it down and Daniele luckily caught it and distributed it to my guys. They have worked really hard for the last two and a half years and it was great for them to finally hold the bottle.
MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS have made great strides this season, your third place in Valencia was testament to that. Can you and the team carry this form into the British GP this coming weekend?
The team winning in Shanghai with Nico and me having some highlights like Monaco and Valencia, has really proven that we have made a huge step forward. With the quality of this team we can make further significant steps and become one of the permanent contenders for the Championship sooner or later. With regards to the race in Silverstone though, it's going to be a difficult task for us, because if we have normal dry weather I don't think we will have much of a chance. But with the mixed weather conditions that are forecasted it will be a much more open situation.
Do you feel as hungry for success as in the first phase of your career? Are you enjoying F1 as much? Does the Valencia podium further motivate you?
Motivation has never been a problem for me. Yes indeed luck was a bit tough on me at the beginning of the season, with all those retirements that we have had. But new races bring new motivation and you look forward, that is my general attitude. I am still hoping for some more good results this year. It might be difficult to think about winning races, because it is a matter of the level of development that we will do with this car compared with other teams that will fight for the Championship, but for sure we can have some highlights.
You made your F1 debut more than 20 years ago. What have been the biggest changes in the sport during that time, both positive, and negative?
The biggest changes are systems such as KERS and DRS, because in the past to overtake required very special circumstances and in these days it requires you to be quicker than the guy in front of you – which normally would be the case. I am very happy that the FIA has developed such a tool. But the normal way of racing and the way of getting the maximum out of your car, that has never been different.
There are a number of contenders to win the Drivers Championship this year. It's clearly hard to say, but who do you fancy to win at this stage?
Well I think Red Bull clearly have made some strong improvements and developments to their car and Valencia proved that now they are going to be very competitive. And so Sebastian and Mark will most likely be contenders. Ferrari have a lead at the moment with Fernando, but it is a question of whether they can maintain that as there are a lot of races to go until the end. As Red Bull have definitely made a big step forward, it will be interesting to see if Ferrari can hold the lead.
How different are you as a person from the Michael Schumacher that retired in 2006?
You will have to ask my friends (laughs). I am more relaxed and more calm, but with the same desire and motivation
What inspired you to get back into the sport?
It was not that I had missed the sport of was bored. In fact, I was enjoying my freedom to do a lot of different things which I had never had time to do before. And when I came to the races in my role as Ferrari adviser, I never felt I would want to participate again. But then, when Ross called me that November 2009, he triggered something in me. It was this sudden coincidence: the fact that Ross was the team principal, the fact that Mercedes was about to enter – and I had been a Mercedes man prior to my time in F1 - the fact that I had totally refreshed batteries and was still very fit. Suddenly I was on fire again, something I would have convincingly denied just before that call.
Your three-year contract also expires at the end of the current season. Do you want to stay in Formula 1 beyond this season?
I know there is a lot of talk about that, but my talks will be done after the decision is taken. And that’s about what I want to say about that topic.
What is a typical day away from the track in the life of Michael Schumacher?
It starts with breakfast with the family. In the early morning I am in the gym, afterwards in the office catching up on my business, then in theafternoon mainly an endurance work out or a soccer game with friends or my local team. And in the evening maybe a barbeque.
You were a useful player in your day. How are you now as a footballer?
I would never have been as successful as I am as a racing driver, that's for sure. But I enjoy myself and I am still developing as a footballer. I am a better player now than I was ten years ago, I am constantly learning to play – in the end, I started very late, and I well remember the first years: I was really bad...
You secured your first pole-position since your comeback at Monaco earlier this season. How did it feel?
It felt like it was about time. I had never doubted that I am still good enough to drive in F1 but not everybody had shared my opinion – whereas Monaco very much underlined it. It felt sweet but at the same time bittersweet. I knew I would not start from pole in the race the next day, so the achievement was somewhat watered.
You've shown strong pace this season, but been desperately unlucky with mechanical issues. In fact you've suffered more mechanical failures this season than between 2001 and 2005. How frustrating is that?
I wasn't aware of this statistic; an interesting one indeed. But the point is that it is prototypes we are driving here, and actually it is a matter of the quality of the people involved that technical problems have become such a rare thing. Of course I would love to have less bad luck and more points, but frustrating is certainly the wrong word in this context – motivating would be the much better choice.
Jacques Villeneuve recently criticised the standard of driving among the current crop of grand prix drivers, calling them 'babies'. He was also critical of Bruno Senna after his crash with you in Barcelona. Do you think the standard of driving is a concern? And how would you compare it with your “first”career?
Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsport. Motorsport is hugely popular, with a lot of series and drivers. I have always felt that everybody who makes it into F1 has deserved it and ultimately is a very good driver.
MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS recently signed a partnership with PUMA who provide racewear, teamwear and licensed apparel and footwear. What is your opinion of these products?
First of all I am I am thankful to PUMA for supporting the team the way they do. PUMA creates some great products, new collections and they have some nice ideas about what they do with their style. I like the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS collection a lot, and I also like the Usain Bolt light weight casual shoes. I am glad we are working with PUMA.