Why the champion's title defence begins at San Marino
He may be a seven-time world champion, but Michael Schumacher is currently experiencing his worst ever start to a Formula One season. Three races in and he is joint 13th in the standings with just two points, 24 less than series leader Fernando Alonso.
Ferraris decision to start the year with an evolution of last years machine proved costly and a hasty introduction of the F2005 at Bahrain did little to improve matters. However, the car was obviously fast and intensive testing over the last couple of weeks has left Schumacher confident that tyre and reliability issues have been solved.
This year, the start of the European leg of the season is also somewhat of a new beginning for us, said the German. We want to begin fighting for the championship title again now, and we believe that our chances are quite good.
Our F2005 has the most important requirement: it is fast enough. We saw that when our car made its debut at Bahrain. We were unable to finish the race, but I think that we've solved that problem during all the extensive testing we did last week.
The media has been quick to point out that no driver has come back to win the title after such a lacklustre start to a campaign. However, several have recovered from larger points deficits mid season and with this years race calendar the longest in Formula One history, Schumacher knows it is still early days.
The world championship, despite the opinion of some pessimists, has not yet been decided, he insisted. For sure, the start of the season has not gone as well as we would have liked but from the outside the situation seems worse than it is in reality.
We have had a lot of bad luck. In Australia, for example, I could have finished in the points if the weather had been better. I was also very hopeful in Bahrain. The race for the world title has not yet reached the decisive stage. The season is a long one and the classification can change. Twenty four points seem like a lot but it is not impossible to catch up.
With nothing left to prove in Formula One racing, Schumacher is now presented with a huge challenge - something he revels in - but one which he knows will draw little criticism should he fail to meet it. At 36, the oldest driver in the sport believes the pressure is now elsewhere.
Alonso will have to begin thinking about the championship and act differently on certain occasions, keeping out of trouble in order to earn precious points, he said. I, on the other hand, have nothing to lose. I can only attack and press on.