Schumacher talks tough at new Ferrari launch

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The Independent Online

Michael Schumacher is bracing himself for the toughest season of his Formula One career as he bids to win a seventh drivers' crown.

The German expects this campaign to be even more competitive than last year, when the Ferrari driver only claimed his record sixth world championship in a fraught decider in Suzuka, Japan.

After launching the F2004 at the team's Italian factory in Maranello yesterday, he said: "The next one is always the toughest. It may be that it's going to be a bit more difficult this year than last season, even though that seems impossible. But we will find out in Melbourne [the season's first Grand Prix]. I'm ready for the new challenge and I'm ready for the new year. My motivation is the same as always."

The F2004 was, as expected, hailed as the best-ever Ferrari though the team are still building parts and tried to play down fears that the car will not be ready for Australia on 7 March.

Schumacher said last year's title would have been wrapped up earlier but for the new scoring system which enabled McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen to take him to the wire despite winning one race to his six.