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Dennis wants Schumacher to stay

Alan Baldwin | January 31, 2004 18:44 IST

McClaren team chief Ron Dennis fears Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher could retire before Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya has a chance to beat him in a McLaren next year.

Montoya has signed a contract to join McLaren in 2005, remaining at Williams this year as one of the Ferrari driver's main rivals.

Dennis told reporters at McLaren's new headquarters that he hoped Schumacher stayed around to face the Colombian in one of his cars but suspected that might not happen.

"I personally don't think he'll be driving in 2005," Dennis said of the 35-year-old German, who has a contract to the end of 2006 and has repeatedly dismissed persistent speculation swirling around his future.

"That's what I think. I don't know," he added.

Dennis said a combination of circumstances, ranging from Ferrari's renewal of Brazilian Rubens Barrichello's contract to comments at their launch this week about bringing on new talent, had set him thinking.

"And also they (Ferrari) have been out testing the temperature on some of the other drivers. So that gives you a little bit of an indication," he said.

"What do we want? I want him to race until 2006 or beyond, so that we can beat him."

MORE MOTIVATION

Dennis said losing on the track this year might provide more motivation for Schumacher, a family man with two young children, to continue racing than if he won the title for a fifth year in a row.

"I think the thing that will motivate him is failure, not success," he declared.

"If there was a 50-50 chance of him retiring if he wins, I'd say there would be 20-80 against if he loses."

Dennis said his opinion of Schumacher, who has had his share of controversy on his way to a record six championships, had changed in recent years.

"I think Michael is a fantastic driver," he said.

"I do have a very different opinion to him now than I did two years ago as I thought some of his starts were questionable and he occasionally gets on the limit in certain overtaking situations.

"I think he is fairer in some of his moves. There are still moments of indiscretion but they all have them."

Dennis said Montoya and last year's runner-up Kimi Raikkonen, also at McLaren, were two drivers who could be guaranteed to take on Schumacher unflinchingly.

He said the Colombian would fit in well with McLaren, who helped the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna to his three titles.

"We believe the environment of McLaren will be a good one for him," said Dennis. "He has got that South American approach to his racing that is very reminiscent of Ayrton and we think we know how to get the best out of that."


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