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Schumacher relishing new challenge

Julian Linden | March 04, 2004 12:54 IST

World champion Michael Schumacher is relishing the challenge of a season that could conceivably end his long reign as world champion.

The German narrowly won his sixth drivers' championship last year for Ferrari but is suddenly under siege from a crop of younger rivals when the Formula One season roars into action with Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher"I love the sport and part of the sport and the main part of the sport is the competition, the overtaking, the thrill of whether you make it or whether you don't make it," Schumacher told a news conference on Thursday.

"That's what I'm looking for, that's what I'm living for."

As one of the elder statesmen of motor racing, Schumacher has nothing left to achieve in the sport.

The 35-year-old has already won more championships and more races than any other driver in history and is rich beyond his dreams.

Now in his 14th season, Schumacher could be forgiven for wanting to slow down but says he has lost none of his motivation.

"It's still pure pleasure and thrill," he said.

"Winning the championship last season after having a tough time during the middle of the year has made me even more motivated this year.

"I'm looking forward to this season. I think it's going to be special."

Schumacher's domination of Formula One convinced organisers to change the rules to make the sport more competitive, but it has not stopped him winning.

A new points system and new qualifying rules were introduced last season but made no difference to the end result, even if the title race was closer.

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Schumacher thinks the latest rule, forcing teams to use the same engine in practice, qualifying and the race, could ultimately play into his hands as well.

"The new rule sounds very impressive but I don't think it'll actually make that much difference," he said.

"You have to remember that the top teams have a lot of resources which the smaller teams don't have."

Schumacher's supporters have urged him to quit while he is still on top in the fear that he might tarnish his reputation but Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone wants him to keep driving.

Ecclestone, recently quoted as saying he expects Finland's Kimi Raikkonen to win this year's championship, said Schumacher should keep driving as long as he wanted as he remained the biggest drawcard in the sport.

"He will always be competitive, whatever happens. Michael is a competitive person and he always will be," Ecclestone said.

"From that point of view he should keep going as long as he wants to. He enjoys his racing and we need him."

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