Motor racing; Schumacher quick off mark at Ferrari

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Motor racing


Michael Schumacher plans to begin his challenge for a third consecutive Formula One title just nine days after the final round of the current championship.

The German, all but confirmed as champion, is scheduled to have his first test drive in a Ferrari at Estoril on 21 November. The Italian team and Benetton- Renault are negotiating for his switch to take effect after the Australian Grand Prix rather than the end of the year. In return Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger will move immediately in the opposite direction.

Schumacher, requiring three points from the remaining three races to deny Damon Hill the title, has consistently contended the Williams-Renault driver is favourite next year and that his realistic target is to reclaim the championship in 1997.

Schumacher's team-mate at Benetton, Johnny Herbert, appears close to securing a contract for next year with Tyrrell-Yamaha in place of Japan's Ukyo Katayama, who returns after a one-race absence in Sunday's Pacific Grand Prix.

Herbert has also had discussions with Sauber-Ford, and although another Englishman, Mark Blundell, about to be released by McLaren-Mercedes, seems to have moved ahead of him in the queue, that job may still be given back to the Austrian, Karl Wendlinger.

The other present McLaren driver, Mika Hakkinen, misses Sunday's race following an operation to remove his appendix.