That night at Suzuka is long gone. Months have passed since Michael Schumacher won his sixth world title in the Ferrari and, in so doing, entered the history books. Next Sunday, once again, the German driver will line up on the starting grid...
That night at Suzuka is long gone. Months have passed since Michael Schumacher won his sixth world title in the Ferrari and, in so doing, entered the history books. Next Sunday, once again, the German driver will line up on the starting grid bearing the number 1. Once again he is the man to beat.Ferrari for hundreds, thousands of kilometres at Fiorano, Mugello and Imola. "Yes it is true. We tested a lot but I have to say that I can't wait to get onto the track and race!" Michael interrupts us with a smile.
The desire to compete for the ten points is great, much more than for any test. "I am pleased that the season is about to start. Preparation is fundamental, but, obviously, we want to test ourselves against the other teams and racing is the only way. The stopwatch is important but racing is something else."
The desire is there, but mixed with pragmatism. Schumacher has never hidden the fact that the 2004 season will not be a walk in the park. "That's right," admits the driver, "not only will the competition be even more difficult to beat, this year we have to take into account the different regulations."
As usual there is the right measure of prudence without ever disrespecting the other teams: "Above all when they represent the biggest constructors of automobiles in the world," explains Schumacher. "We are conscious and respect the strengths of the other teams as we are of our own strengths. We enjoy challenges, we've never turned away from one and will not do so now. We're very well prepared and we have the desire to win and so I don't see why we can't aim to win both world titles."
So, there is respect for the other teams but no fear. But the questions asked by the fans are always the same: which will be the strongest team and which driver will have the best chance of removing wrestling the title from the Ferrari driver? "Williams-BMW and Renault could be the trickiest opponents," responds Michael. "Their results have been good right from the beginning and I have to say that they have impressed in this winter period where their testing results have been good".
And McLaren? "That's just it: I referred to them without forgetting...ourselves, we haven't done too badly," he underlines with a smile. So it seems that nobody frightens Michael: "I personally believe that each driver from the four strongest teams has a good chance. I won't name names now as it is too early. The doubts will all fade away from Sunday onwards where in Melbourne winning will be all that counts. That is all the matters! Every driver wants to win; it is the nature of our job, and it's true for all of us. The closer the title is, the tougher for the battle becomes."