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Schuey defends old car choice

Michael Schumacher has jetted off to Australia for the season-opening grand prix still convinced that Ferrari has done the right thing in starting the year with its old car, despite growing doubts about its overall pace.

With his Ferrari team admitting that the F2004M is a 'heavy compromise' and believed to be considering an early introduction for the 2005 model, Schumacher is remaining upbeat about his prospects.

"Of course that may be a disadvantage during the first few races, but we think that all in all it's the best solution,"he said about the decision to start the season with the old car. "Otherwise we wouldn't have decided to do it.

"We are sure that taking more time to develop the new car is the right approach and we will not let anyone make us think differently. The season will be longer than it ever was and we are looking at the battle for the championship title as a whole.

"We will have a good car for four races and a perfect car for the 15 races after that. If we hadn't done that, we would have probably had to keep on making adjustments to the car during the season. And again: I'm sure many people would be happy to have a compromise like ours at their disposal.”

Despite the concerns about the F2004M, however, Schumacher is not hiding his eagerness to get out onto the track and discover just how his team compares to the opposition.

Speaking just before getting on his plane to Australia, Schumacher said: "It's finally starting, finally all the speculation will come to an end. It's the same thing every year: everybody tries to draw their own conclusions from the winter's tests, but nobody knows for sure what's happening.

"In Melbourne we'll find out what's really going on and not until then will we know where we stand regarding our work. I'm really eager to find out now, I want to drive on the race track and race the others.”

He added: "I'm really eager to find out who will be strongest. I wouldn't be surprised if we do pretty good from the beginning on, even if - as I have often said - Renault and Mercedes seemed to be the strongest teams when testing ended."

Schumacher's return to action on the track has also inevitably brought about a packed schedule of events off it. He will make his first public appearance in Australia at a Shell press conference on Wednesday, before joining a beach-volleyball competition for Vodafone on Thursday, prior to his appearance in the official FIA press conference that afternoon.

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