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Age no obstacle to success: Schumacher

Alan Baldwin | January 03, 2005 10:54 IST

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher is preparing for another season of success, this time as the oldest driver in Formula One.

The seven times world champion celebrates his 36th birthday on Monday, confident he can beat the advancing years just as easily as he saw off his rivals in the one-sided 2004 campaign.

"Of course I have the odd small ache or pain every now and then but they are only small ones," said the German, now the 'old man' of the starting grid after the retirement of Frenchman Olivier Panis.

"All in all, I feel very, very fit and to be perfectly honest, much younger than almost 36," he said on his website.

"I play soccer with my colleagues quite often, with people like (Renault's) Fernando Alonso who is 10 years younger than I am and I don't see much of a difference.

"No, I am not getting worn out and especially not psychologically. I still enjoy what I do immensely."

In fact, Spaniard Alonso is 13 years his junior. Jenson Button, third overall for BAR last year, will be 25 on January 19 while McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen will be 26 in October.

Schumacher will be starting his 15th season in Australia on March 6 with a record 83 wins under his belt from 212 races, though his enthusiasm has not waned.

STILL HUNGRY

"I'm starting off the new season just like all the others before, with a hunger, fully motivated and looking forward to the fights that lie ahead," said Schumacher, who needs just two more pole positions to equal Ayrton Senna's record.

"I have fun, I love my sport and I love being challenged. The things I've achieved so far have nothing to do with it...In sport, you can't rest on your past victories. You have to take the challenge again and again."

Schumacher, who won 13 of last year's 18 races, has not been in a Formula One car since the end of October and is not due to test until the middle of the month.

Some of his competitors however are already fearful 2005 could be a repeat of last year's 'red wash'.

"I think it will be much the same as last year," said Red Bull Racing, formerly Jaguar, boss Tony Purnell.

Reliability will be crucial, with changes meaning that engines have to last for two race weekends, and Ferrari's is second to none.

Purnell is a Schumacher fan, despite the domination.

"I think F1 is inherently entertaining," he said. "Could it be more entertaining than at the moment? Probably, but we have got the hero factor with Michael.

"It's never entertaining if someone runs off with the championship. What we would all like is a three or four-way shoot-out to the last race, we have had it in the past and it became electric.

"Make no mistake, McLaren are working at that as are Williams and BAR and maybe it will happen, but it's just that Ferrari are so strong."


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