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Schumacher works to get into shape

The Associated Press
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 04:33 AM
FRANKFURT -

Michael Schumacher is trying to get his 40-year-old body in shape for his Formula One comeback next month.

The seven-time champion will fill in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, and he hopes to race at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, Spain, on Aug. 23.

Schumacher retired at the end of the 2006 season, and his return is greatly anticipated in his home country of Germany. He holds nearly all Formula One records and won 91 races in 250 starts.

The comeback is contingent on Schumacher passing a battery of medical tests that could take several days, according to his doctor, Johannes Peil.

"Had Michael not worked so hard in recent months, all this would not have been possible," Peil said Thursday.

Schumacher, one of the fittest drivers in his racing days, injured his neck in a motorcycle accident in February. Peil said the former champion has been working out at home regularly, especially on his neck muscles.

The injuries from the motorcycle race have never been described in detail. Schumacher is believed to have not raced on two wheels since. Neck muscles are critical for Formula One drivers, who experience great G forces during a race.

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said in Rome he hopes Schumacher is physically up to the challenge, particularly the stress on his neck.

"But already today the entire team is working to prepare him," he said. "Tomorrow he'll have his first tests on the track."

"This is the best thing that could happen to Formula One and it's simply great for our sport," Mercedes motor sports chief Norbert Haug said.

Schumacher will have little time to become accustomed to the Ferrari and new technology. Also, the Valencia course has been modified since Schumacher retired, and testing has been banned to save costs.

"He's going to find himself on a circuit he's never driven on, with a car he's never driven, and with technology he doesn't know," Montezemolo said. "But, unfortunately, this is the price we have to pay."

Massa, meanwhile, is already planning a return to racing and joking about keeping Schumacher away from his car as he recovers.

Massa's family doctor Dino Altman said the Brazilian driver was eating and walking around his hospital room in Budapest, Hungary.

He also appeared to have no problem in the left eye, which doctors feared had been badly injured in the crash during qualifying Saturday for the Hungarian Grand Prix.

"He is back to normal," Altman said.

KANAAN CLEARED: IndyCar star Tony Kanaan has been cleared to return to the track for Saturday's race at Kentucky Speedway after escaping serious injury after his car caught on fire.

During last week's race at Edmonton, Kanaan was pulling out of the pits on Lap 34 when his fuel hose attached to his Honda remained open. The fuel ignited as he left the pit stall and flames spread to the cockpit as Kanaan coasted down pit road. The 34-year-old Brazilian sustained superficial burns to his face. He credited the quick action of nearby crews in helping him escape unharmed.

Two Andretti Green Racing crew members who assisted Kanaan also have been cleared to return to work.

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