Schumacher clear favourite in new FI season

23rd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

28 February 2005 , HAMBURG - World champion Michael Schumacher is raring to go ahead of this weekend's Formula One season-opener, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne. "About time, I can hardly wait," the Ferrari driver said on his website www.michael-schumacher.de. "I'm already getting goose bumps." Seven-time champion Schumacher said, as ever year, all the teams had made progress in winter testing but that they would only know how much until after the first race weekend. "We'll see in Melbourne what th

28 February 2005 

HAMBURG - World champion Michael Schumacher is raring to go ahead of this weekend's Formula One season-opener, the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

"About time, I can hardly wait," the Ferrari driver said on his website www.michael-schumacher.de. "I'm already getting goose bumps."

Seven-time champion Schumacher said, as ever year, all the teams had made progress in winter testing but that they would only know how much until after the first race weekend.

"We'll see in Melbourne what the situation is and only then will we be able to prioritise our work. I finally want to know," said the 36-year-old German.

Schumacher defended his team's decision to compete with last year's F2004 M car for the first four races of the season rather than the new F2005, which was launched last Friday.

"Naturally, it could be a disadvantage in the first race but we believe that, overall, it's the better solution," said Schumacher.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we were right up there, even if, as has been so often said, Renault and (McLaren) Mercedes have made the strongest impression recently.

Serial-champion Schumacher goes into the new season as the clear favourite - just as he did last year.

But unlike last season, at least half a dozen of his opponents are hoping to put an end to his remarkable run that has seen him win five championships in a row. It will be closer and more difficult this time around because the others are better prepared and it will be tough for us in the beginning."

The 36-year-old, who has won seven championships in total, sees BAR-Honda and Renault, as well as McLaren-Mercedes as his main rivals. "I think McLaren will be a force from the beginning," he said. 

But although there have been several rule changes and Ferrari will be using their old car from last year for the first four of the 19 races, there is still little to suggest that the German will not be able to add to his title collection.

For one, he remains as determined and hungry for success as always and as he himself says, he believes he is even more motivated than he was when he began his career 14 years ago.

He also has, as his backing, a Ferrari team that has fewer changes than most other teams and has a proven track record.

Nevertheless, several other teams are staking their claim to challenge for the title. Leading the way are the two surprise teams from last season: Honda and Renault.

Jenson Button, who last season finished third in the drivers standings behind the two Ferraris of Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello, said that: Michael would not win the championship if he did not drive in a Ferrari."

Button, 25, who has yet to win a race, is optimistic ahead of the season. Schumacher will have to look out for us more than he did last year."

Also announcing his intention to fight for the title is Formula One president of Renault, Patrick Faure. We want to challenge for the title in the next two years and to achieve that we need to compete with Ferrari at their level."

Less outspoken is McLaren, who last season managed only a fifth position in the constructors standings. In Melbourne at the first race on 6 March, we will see how strong we are," driver, Kimi Raikkonen said.

Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug believes Raikkonen and their new driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, can achieve a lot, but only if they receive competitive cars from the team. It does not help to make bold predictions, but we want to challenge for top three finishes," Haug said.

Another team making less bolder predictions than in the past is Williams-BMW. We want to get back to our successful past," team boss Frank Williams said. With the departure of Montoya and Ralf Schumacher, Williams will go into the new season with new drivers: Mark Webber and Nick Heidfeld, both of whom still have to show that they can win races.

The 27-year-old Heidfeld believes he has been given the biggest break in his career. It is my aim to beat all other drivers, not only Michael Schumacher. I want to become world champion. I am not sure when yet."

Schumachers younger brother, Ralf, has at least momentarily no such ambitions. With his new team, Toyota, he is hoping to be able to ensure that the difference between them and the top teams becomes smaller. We will only be able to challenge for a top three finish towards the middle of the season."

The new rules should add excitement and surprises to the season. Particularly the tyres could play a pivotal role. Drivers will only be allowed to use one set of tyres for the qualifying process (Saturday and Sunday) and the race itself.

New is also the rule pertaining to the engines, which have to last two complete race weekends. Other changes see the speed decrease and security increase through changes to the aerodynamics of the cars.

Whatever happens, there will definitely be at least one record established during this 56th Formula One season: for the first time ever, 19 races will be raced. For the first time a Grand Prix will be held in Turkey and Narain Karthikeyan (Jordan) is the first Indian to drive in Formula One. Chanoch Nissany, who is the test driver for Minardi, is the first Israeli and Alexander Shnaider, who bought into the Jordan team, is the first Russian in Grand Prix racing.

All of them add a new dimension to the glamour world of Grand Prix racing.

DPA

Subject: German news

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