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Schumacher slams race fixing fears
Greg Buckle | March 06, 2003 14:55 IST
Ferrari's Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher believes a scenario suggested by McLaren driver David Coulthard that smaller teams could assist a bigger rival under new qualifying rules is unfair and unlikely.
"It would be a very unfair tactic. I can't see why other teams would interfere, they have their own interests," Schumacher told a news conference in Melbourne on Thursday.
Coulthard told reporters a day earlier that it was possible for smaller teams to qualify at the front of the grid on Saturday knowing they would have to make early pit stops in Sunday's race because of light fuel loads.
Teams will not be allowed to refuel their cars between qualifying and the race under new rules for the season which starts in Melbourne on Sunday.
"You could imagine a scenario... where if teams became aligned with each other (and) a small team was to qualify in a strong position, and a competitor had some influence on that team, they could ask for favours from that team," Coulthard said.
"So although there's not allowed to be team orders directly in terms of a radio link there could be inter-team orders."
Local newspapers speculated on Thursday that because Sauber uses a Ferrari engine and Minardi tests at Ferrari's private Fiorano track, they could assist Schumacher to quickly move from midfield to the lead depending on where the German qualified on Saturday.
"It is a surprise hearing that a team like Minardi test on our circuit and they are (therefore) aligned with Ferrari," Schumacher said.
"If you want to say things you can always say things but at the end of the day everybody will want to do their best.
"You see even McLaren testing (alongside Ferrari at Valencia in January) so will they help us? I don't think so."
The 34-year-old German won an unprecedented 11 of 17 races last year to claim a record-equalling fifth world title and third in succession.
Qualifying has become a single-lap shootout and teams can no longer work through the night rebuilding cars and engines on the Saturday evening before the race.
"Team orders", of the sort that caused a furore in Austria last year when Brazilian Rubens Barrichello gifted Schumacher victory, are banned and many of the electronic driver aids will suffer the same fate later in the year.
Schumacher also denied suggestions that the sport had become simply too easy for him to dominate.
"Listen, my career has been 12 years in Formula One and I have had one year where it might have been a bit easy," Schumacher said.
"It's a tenth of my career so I'm quite happy to have a little time like that.
"It will automatically become harder because other teams hadn't done a great job last year, and I am pretty sure they will do a much better job this year and therefore competition will become harder."