Michael Schumacher’s fiercest rivals to give son Mick rude awakening to F1 life

Nine years after the legendary Michael Schumacher called time on his glittering Formula One career, one of the most famous names in motorosport returns to the grid this weekend.

Mick, the 22-year-old son of the seven-time world champion, will make his eagerly-awaited F1 bow at the Bahrain Grand Prix, having signed a multi-year agreement with American team Haas.

The German youngster is signed up to Ferrari's famed Driver Academy and will eventually hope to emulate his father's success with the Scuderia, who helped Schumacher Snr win five titles.

And when Schumacher Jnr finally steps foot on the Sakhir tarmac for the 2021 curtain-raiser this Sunday, there will be some familiar faces on the grid.

In fact, six drivers who competed in his dad's last-ever F1 race – the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix – will also embark on the new campaign alongside the debutant.

Schumacher Snr called time on his career for good after three tough seasons with Mercedes, who at the time were still finding their feet in the sport.

The German icon had initially quit F1 in 2006 but returned four years later after being lured in by the project with the Silver Arrows.

His farewell race was no doubt an emotional occasion – and six particular drivers will look back on the Sao Paulo showdown with fond memories.

Current F1 stars Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Daniel Ricciardo and Sergio Perez were all part of that GP nine years ago.

Hamilton competed against Schumacher for three seasons before eventually replacing him at Mercedes, where he has overseen a remarkable rise to superstardom.

The British surpassed Schumacher's record of 91 race wins last year, while also equalling his tally seven world titles.

Raikkonen, now 41 and at Alfa Romeo, made his debut 20 years ago with Sauber and replaced seven-time world champion Michael at Ferrari at the end of 2006.

The Finn remains Ferrari's most recent world champion after winning the title in 2007.

Spaniard Alonso, the two-time champion who ended Schumacher's run of five successive titles with his first in 2005, is returning with Renault-owned Alpine at the age of 39.

Four-time world champion Vettel has previously made no secret of his admiration for his compatriot and is no doubt relishing to chance to compete alongside Schumacher Jnr.

Meanwhile Ricciardo and Perez were just getting started in the sport, with Toro Rosso and Sauber respectively, but are now regarded as two of the more experienced drivers on the grid.

Indeed, the journeys of all six have certainly progressed since that showdown in Brazil.

And Schumacher Jnr will be given a rude awakening when he makes his bow, with Haas not expected to be among the teams challenging for the podium places.

But the talented racer is ready to fulfil a lifelong ambition as he prepares to make his Formula One debut.

It will mark the return of the Schumacher name to the sport nine years after the German retired, and three decades since his debut at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix.

Schumacher went on to win 91 times for Benetton and Ferrari. His number of victories was surpassed by Hamilton last year.

Schumacher, 52, has not been seen in public for more than seven years after a skiing accident in the French Alps left him with devastating brain injuries.

Mick was alongside him at the time of the tragic accident. His condition has subsequently been held as a closely guarded secret.

Asked to provide some insight on how his father feels about his inaugural race, Schumacher said: "Obviously, that is kind of a very private question and not a question for me to answer.

"In terms of family, I am here alone. I have my group around me, and we will take on that task of going into my first Formula One race.

"I stepped into a go-kart when I was two and a half. I tried different sports, football, ice hockey, but there was never anything that gave me the same feeling as racing and I never had the feeling that I wanted to do anything else.

"So I pursued it and we took it to a more professional level when I was 12. That is when I started racing internationally and it was a decision I took with my dad.

"It has been a long time coming but I have always wanted this."

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