Schumacher expects tough year

Michael Schumacher has admitted that he faces a much tougher challenge in 2005 than he did when sweeping to a dominant title victory last season.

Schumacher expects tough year

The seven-times world champion won a record 13 races in 2004 but has appeared to struggle for pace in pre-season testing. Sources at this week's Catalunya test insisted to autosport.com that Ferrari has not been holding back or sandbagging, yet the team appears to be slightly off the pace of winter testing stars McLaren and Renault.

Speaking to the British newspaper The Sunday Times, Schumacher was realistic about his prospects.

"I'm sure it will be a much more difficult year," he said. "For whatever reason, it was unexpected for us to be much stronger than the others at the start of last season, and whatever mistakes they made, they now probably won't repeat.

"At the same time it has been very tough to get where we have arrived to. We know what it takes and we'd simply like to hold on. I believe we can."

Ferrari looked to be lacking speed for much of winter testing last season, only to arrive at Melbourne with a clear advantage over the field. Schumacher's younger brother Ralf is among those sure that this will not be repeated in 2005.

"I can remember times when Ferrari went into the distance and were 1s faster than all the others," Ralf told German newspaper Kolner Stadt Anzeiger. "I do not see that so far (in testing). That can change with the 2005 Ferrari, but for the moment it looks very close."

The definitive 2005 Ferrari will be unveiled at Maranello on Friday (February 25) but will not race until the Spanish Grand Prix, with Ferrari using the modified F2004M chassis for the first four rounds of this year's championship.

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