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Belgian Grand Prix 2011: Michael Schumacher eyes podium place in Spa on 20th anniversary of Formula One career

Formula One returns this weekend after an enforced summer holiday with the teams declaring themselves refreshed and Michael Schumacher hoping to mark the 20th anniversary of his debut with a podium place.

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Schumacher, 42, veteran of 278 races and 91 wins since his first competitive appearance at the 1991 Belgian Grand Prix, has enjoyed a special relationship with the famous, old and challenging circuit.

Schumacher claimed his maiden F1 win at Spa in 1992 and has revelled in racing there – winning six times in all – during his career of a record seven drivers’ world titles and a catalogue of incidents.

“For me it is hard to believe that I drove my first race at Spa now 20 years ago,” he said. “So it is going to have a special touch to it this time for me. The place where I drove in F1 for the first time and it was the nearest to my family home.

“You know, a lot has changed in those 20 years, but one thing has not – the track is still sensational. I just love the great nature of the location and the resulting layout with all the ups and downs.

“To me, Spa remains my ‘living room’, because it has been the stage for so many things which have been remarkable for my sporting career. This is why this time I would like specifically to send a big thank you to all my fans for their loyalty and support – which I was happy to receive during those 20 years and also since my comeback.

“We are all returning from the summer break with fresh motivation and energy – and will try to set an exclamation mark at the Belgian Grand Prix.”

Schumacher’s Mercedes team chief Norbert Haug said: “It will be a special weekend for Michael, who will mark the 20th anniversary of his F1 debut, which is an outstanding and remarkable achievement.

“The races at Spa have historically been full of surprises and the weather has mostly played a major role. The circuit should suit our current technical package a little bit better than was the case at the previous two races.”

That said both Schumacher and his Mercedes team-mate compatriot Nico Rosberg, 26, know they face a massive challenge.

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