Schumacher: Season Not a Sprint

Michael Schumacher has warned Ferrari's rivals that the Formula One season is a marathon, not a sprint

The seven-time World Champion failed to finish the season-opening Australian Grand Prix but insisted he would bounce back in Malaysia this weekend.

"I'm not worried," shrugged Schumacher, who won the first five races of 2004 and a record 13 of 18 in an all-conquering year for Ferrari. "I'm pretty relaxed about what's going on. I know it's 19 races and it's just one that's passed by. It's nothing more."

Schumacher began on the back row in Melbourne and retired early following a collision with fellow German Nick Heidfeld's Williams. Schumacher's Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello placed second despite the fact Ferrari are running a modified version of their old car at least until the third race in Bahrain.

"I have more to prove than Rubens," said Schumacher, who is bidding to win his sixth world title in a row. "But Australia is one will be different again here."

Ferrari's new car is being hailed as the best ever but will not be introduced until Bahrain next month, or possibly Spain in May.

"We will see what we can do here but we will be better with the new car," said Schumacher. "There's a chance of having it in Bahrain. Obviously, testing in the next days and weeks will be important. But we will have to wait for three or four races before we know who we'll be battling with."

Italy's Giancarlo Fisichella won the season-opener for Renault with Spaniard Fernando Alonso taking third for the French manufacturer. But Schumacher, who has won three times in sweltering Sepang, nonchalantly brushed off suggestions that the balance of power had shifted.

"We have a point to prove but it can be so different character-wise on this circuit," he said. "Australia was a little frustrating but now we have the chance to put it right."


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