Schumacher puts brakes on talk of retirement

The Formula One world champion, Michael Schumacher, hailed the decision of his team-mate, Rubens Barrichello, to sign a new deal at Ferrari as the "best possible news" yesterday, and the German revealed that he might race on beyond 2006.

Despite reports linking Barrichello with a new team, the Brazilian confirmed on Wednesday that he was extending his contract with the Italians until 2006, a decision welcomed by Schumacher. "I think Rubens' confirmation was the best possible news," he said. "Honestly, there is no better choice than Rubens to be with us. It has been a logical and natural decision. It can only be a great practical move so the team works better."

Last year, Schumacher extended his Ferrari contract until the same point, with many expecting him to call time on his sensational career on its expiry. The six-times world champion, however, is keeping the door open and revealed that if the hunger to win remains he may well carry on beyond that point.

"I don't exclude the possibility of racing even after 2006," Schumacher added. "When I renewed my contract, [the Ferrari president] Luca Di Montezemolo told me that I could stay as long as I wanted, as long as I felt motivated and fast. There is no reason why I should close the door to the future."

A more pressing matter is retaining his title in 2004, when he will look to win what would be a fifth straight victory. "It is going to be an interesting championship, just like that of 2003," he said. "The fight will be very level.

"I start with the same motivation as always. My aim is not so much win at all costs but to feel competitive. During the winter I have been racing karts with the same spirit. If I no longer felt that competitive feeling I would quit."

He also added that he never wants to be in a Formula One team with his brother, Ralf: "The Klitschko brothers will never box against each other, and we won't do the same," he said. "We don't want to fight against each other in the same car."

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