Months of anticipation and speculation will end Sunday when the Formula One season begins and Michael Schumacher marks his return to racing at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
At 41, the seven-time F1 champion comes out of three years of retirement to race for the newly formed Mercedes GP, which bought out last year's constructors' champion Brawn GP.
Schumacher said he felt like "a child at Christmas" coming to Bahrain, where he lines up against defending champ Jenson Button, two-time champ Fernando Alonso, 2008 winner Lewis Hamilton and talented Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel. Button joins McLaren after stunning the experts with his title at Brawn.
"I love this fight," Schumacher said. "It is because of this fight that I came back to Formula One."
Alonso is the preseason favorites as the driver looks reinvigorated after his move to Italian giant Ferrari, which also welcomes Felipe Massa back for the first time since he had life-threatening injuries in a crash at the Hungarian GP in July.
"It's a very important moment for us after a horrible year. It was also a difficult moment for me with the accident," Massa said. "I'm concentrated, I'm ready 100 percent."
Schumacher's experience could pay dividends as refueling has been banned, so teams can only pit to change tires. Also, the top-10 qualifiers can't swap tires before the start of the race.
The American team, USF1, won't be ready this season, autosport.com reported last week, due to financial turmoil. The team, based in Charlotte, N.C., has released all of its personnel.
No. Name Team Country
1 Jenson Button McLaren England
2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren England
3 Michael Schumacher Mercedes Germany
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes Germany
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Germany
6 Mark Webber Red Bull Australia
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari Brazil
8 Fernando Alonso Ferrari Spain
9 Rubens Barrichello Williams Brazil
10 Nico Hulkenberg Williams Germany
11 Robert Kubica Renault Poland
12 Vitaly Petrov Renault Russia
14 Adrian Sutil Force India Germany
15 Vitantonio Liuzzi Force India Italy
16 Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso Switzerland
17 Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso Spain
18 Jarno Trulli Lotus Italy
19 Heikki Kovalainen Lotus Finland
20 Karun Chandhok HRT India
21 Bruno Senna HRT Brazil
22 Pedro de la Rosa BMW Sauber Spain
23 Kamui Kobayashi BMW Sauber Japan
24 Timo Glock Virgin Germany
25 Lucas di Grassi Virgin Brazil
Date Site Time TV
Sunday Sakhir, Bahrain 8 a.m. Speed
March 28 Melbourne, Australia 2 a.m. Speed
April 4 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia 4 a.m. Speed
April 18 Shanghai, China 3 a.m. Speed
May 9 Barcelona, Spain 8 a.m. Speed
May 16 Monte Carlo, Monaco 8 a.m. Speed
May 30 Istanbul, Turkey 8 a.m. Speed
June 13 Montreal Noon Ch. 13
June 27 Valencia, Spain 8 a.m. Ch. 13
July 11 Silverstone, England 8 a.m. Ch. 13
July 25 Hockenheim, Germany 8 a.m. Ch. 13
Aug. 1 Budapest, Hungary 8 a.m. Speed
Aug. 29 Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium 8 a.m. Speed
Sept. 12 Monza, Italy 8 a.m. Speed
Sept. 26 Singapore 8 a.m. Speed
Oct. 10 Suzuka, Japan 2 a.m. Speed
Oct. 24 Yeongam County, South Korea 2 a.m. Speed
Nov. 7 Sao Paulo, Brazil 11 a.m. Speed
Nov. 14 Abu Dhabi, UAE 8 a.m. Speed