Having enjoyed a series of successful race outings on two wheels, Michael Schumacher is poised to return to the arena in which he has garnered the most glory when he rejoins Ferrari at next week's Barcelona group test.
According to reports in the team's homeland, the seven-time world champion will line-up alongside 2008 regulars Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa at the Circuit de Catalunya, but will be working on Ferrari's 2009 programme, running an F2008 kitted out to mimic the forthcoming rule changes regarding tyres and aerodynamic devices.
Sporting director Stefano Domenicali has made no secret of the fact that the Scuderia was already preparing for the dramatic rule changes due to be introduced next season, telling Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport that the team has been running scale models of the proposed F2009 in its windtunnel since early February. Now, however, the team is keen to translate the findings made at Maranello into real-time data from the test track.
"The regulations allow for some sensational developments that will greatly differentiate the cars, while today the possibilities of changing are curbed by regulations we've had for many years," Domenicali stated early last month, "For over a month now, there's been a scale model of the 2009 car in the wind tunnel. We are making experiments full-time, and once again we'll need to get on track very early."
Ferrari has confirmed that, while Massa and Raikkonen will spell each other at the wheel of a more conventional F2008 in order to keep the team ahead of its rivals as the first half of the European season approaches, Schumacher will spend one day mid-week trying the planned 2009 package on slick tyres.
The German has, of course, already maintained his special relationship with the team by testing in Barcelona in February. On that occasion, he was ironing out the wrinkles from the 2008 car that has since gone on to win two races out of three to date.