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Schumacher - don't count Ferrari out 05 May 2006

Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari in the FIA Press Conference.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Preparations, Nurburgring, Germany, 4 May 2006

Perhaps pointedly, following the manner in which Ferrari controlled Renault in the recent San Marino Grand Prix, world champion Fernando Alonso has said that he fears McLaren will be the toughest opposition at the Nurburgring this weekend.

Michael Schumacher, however, has other plans. The former champion is adamant that Ferrari will be able to challenge for another victory, and confident that there will not be any tyre issues at Bridgestone even though the talk is all about the German track suiting Michelin.

Schumacher has four victories to his credit here, and said yesterday: “I believe we are in a position to fight for it, and as you’ve seen and we have mentioned several times, there is very close competition between three, if not more, teams who can win. It comes down to who gets the maximum from their package. If we do that, we have a chance; if we don’t do that, then we don’t. We’ll see if it’s a Michelin circuit!”

There have been suggestions that the intensity of the tyre war is such that each product’s operating temperature ‘window’ is so small that minor changes in ambient temperature (and therefore track temperature) can have a significant effect. And that the warmer than expected temperature here, as in Imola, might prove crucial to Michelin and Bridgestone’s respective aspirations.

“We have had concerns and we have learned how to handle the tyres,” Schumacher said. “We believe that we are on top of the situation.”

Like Renault with its uprated B-spec RS26, and McLaren with a further revised version of Mercedes-Benz’s FO108S V8, Ferrari have an engine upgrade here, but nobody is claiming significant horsepower gains. As usual, any improvements come in small increments at this level. Schumacher, however, is also confident that he has an even better Ferrari F248 than he did when he won in Italy. He also agreed that while the modern breed of car has less horsepower than the old V10s, it is “still fun to drive.” That prompted the inevitable question about his future plans, particularly after Luca di Montezemolo recently suggested that it was now 50/50 that Michael will stay on for another two years.

All the man himself would do was smirk, and say: “No change, no change!”