The end-of-season contest, held every year since 1988, brings together the world’s greatest drivers from motor sport’s main disciplines – including Formula 1, world rally, touring cars, Le Mans, MotoGP, IndyCar and the X-Games – and sets them free to battle head-to-head in identical machinery.
Schumacher has more titles (7), wins (91) and pole positions (68) than anyone else in the history of Formula 1. The German retired from full-time competition at the end of 2012 but he also has a mighty record at the Race Of Champions, having partnered reigning F1 world champion and compatriot Sebastian Vettel to ROC Nations Cup glory in each of the last six years. To rub it in, the pair won ten races out of ten en route to victory last December.
Now Schumacher will aim to extend that run even further, sending out an ominous warning to any rivals standing between him and his ‘lucky number’ seven: “I am sorry to say but of course we want to win it again! The fact that it will be the seventh title this year makes it even more interesting, at least for me. So be prepared for a hot Team Germany in the ROC Nations Cup.
“This year I am still spending a lot of time on four wheels, but obviously not in F1. I still do a lot of karting as this is my ‘old’ love, and I have been driving the Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 which was a really good experience. It is obviously different when you are racing every other weekend but I am still quite used to it."
Schumacher takes pride in the 2013 fortunes of his old team Mercedes, which is now a regular F1 front-runner, adding: “I am happy for the progression the team has quite clearly made. It means the work we did in the past years was not bad, as indeed we managed to set the basis we wanted to find to then increase the performance. It is cool to see that the step the team took is probably even bigger than expected from last year to this year, and I think I have good reasons to be happy about it."
The Race Of Champions brings together stars from all over the world – and the rest of this year’s line-up will be announced in the run-up to December’s event. Along with Schumacher and Vettel’s total of ten Formula 1 world championships, the 2012 field featured a haul of seven MotoGP championships courtesy of Jorge Lorenzo and Mick Doohan, plus greats from Le Mans (Tom Kristensen), touring cars (Andy Priaulx), IndyCar (Ryan Hunter-Reay), V8 Supercars (Jamie Whincup) and more.
Race organizer Fredrik Johnsson added: “We are proud that Michael so enjoys the Race Of Champions he keeps coming back for more. He may have officially retired from F1 but we all know that hasn’t dimmed his competitive spirit. This will be a rare chance to see the world’s most successful racing driver take on the best of today’s talent in identical machinery. We hope fans from Thailand and around the world will grab this unique opportunity to see this driving legend in action once more."
Full Q&A with Michael Schumacher
Last year you and Sebastian Vettel won ten races out of ten en route to your sixth consecutive ROC Nations Cup victory. That’s hard to top but how much are you looking forward to gunning for your ‘lucky number seven’ for Team Germany in December?
"Well, I already announced it last year, didn’t I? But seriously, I am sorry to say but of course we want to win it again! Both Sebastian and I are competitive guys and once we are sitting in any car and the visor goes down we just want to be first over the finishing line. The fact that it will be the seventh title this year makes it even more interesting, at least for me. So be prepared for a hot Team Germany to enter the ROC Nations Cup."
We saw you drive the Nordschleife in the Mercedes Formula 1 car in May. How much time are you still spending on four wheels?
"I am still on four wheels a lot, but obviously not in F1. I still do a lot of karting, as this is my 'old' love, and I have been driving the Mercedes AMG SLS GT3 which was a really good experience. It is obviously different when you are racing every other weekend but I am still quite used to it."
What else has been filling your time and how have you been getting your adrenaline rush lately – horses, parachutes, motorbikes, etc?
"It is funny that everybody thinks I need adrenaline to be happy – in fact, if you had an adrenaline rush in a F1 car, you would be facing problems. The calmer and more relaxed you are in the car, the better – and this goes for motorcycling and other things as well. What I love with those things is finding the limit, being on the limit and still controlling it. Just to find this fine edge is something I have always liked."
What do you think of Mercedes’ fortunes in Formula 1 in 2013 and how much satisfaction do you take from your part in the team’s and car’s development in the previous seasons?
"I am happy for the progression the team has quite clearly made. It means the work we did in the past years was not bad, as indeed we managed to set the basis we wanted to find to then increase the performance. It is cool to see that the step the team took is probably even bigger than expected from last year to this year, and I think I have good reasons to be happy about it."
Your fans around the world will be hoping this won’t be the last we see of Michael Schumacher at ROC. Even if you get ‘lucky number seven’ can we still hope to see you come back for more?
"Well, let’s put it like this maybe: I have always enjoyed the Race Of Champions, being together with the other drivers in a relaxed atmosphere, and in the end this is why I have always returned. It is a cool event where everybody has fun: drivers, spectators and media. I am sure the crowd in Bangkok this year will understand even better that they just have to turn up and be part of the spectacle, so I put my trust in them to celebrate the Race Of Champions together with us."
The driver line-up for the 2012 Race Of Champions included:
- Michael SCHUMACHER, seven-time Formula 1 World Champion
- Sebastian VETTEL, Formula 1 World Champion 2012, 2011, 2010
- Jorge LORENZO, MotoGP World Champion 2012, 2010
- Tom KRISTENSEN, nine-time Le Mans 24-Hour race winner
- Mick DOOHAN, five-time 500cc MotoGP World Champion
- Jamie WHINCUP, V8 Supercar Champion 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008
- David COULTHARD, 13-time Formula 1 grand prix winner
- Andy PRIAULX, three-time World Touring Car Champion
- Ryan HUNTER-REAY, IndyCar Series Champion 2012
- Benito GUERRA, Production World Rally Champion 2012
- Narain KARTHIKEYAN, 2012 Formula 1 driver for HRT
- Karun CHANDHOK, Formula 1 driver for HRT and Team Lotus
- Nattavude CHAROENSUKAWATTANA, Supercar Thailand Champion 2010
- Tin SRITRAI, Touring Car Series in Asia by IMSP Champion 2012
- Kazuya OHSHIMA, Class winner NÃ¼rburgring 24-Hour race 2012, 2010
- Takuto IGUCHI, Class winner NÃ¼rburgring 24-Hour race 2012
- Ho-Pin TUNG, Formula 1 test driver for Renault
- Han HAN, China Rally and China Touring Car Champion 2012
- Romain GROSJEAN, three Formula 1 podiums in 2012
- Sébastien OGIER, over 10 WRC rally wins and leading the 2013 title race