Schumacher targets title in three years

German aims high on F1 return while Alonso relishes chance to renew rivalry

It is as if he has never been away. Michael Schumacher is once more the centre of Formula One's attention with the German yesterday declaring he will win an eighth world championship within three years, while Fernando Alonso traces his re-discovered "motivation" to the return of his old rival.

Schumacher this week set out on the road to the opening Grand Prix in March by completing more than 100 pratice laps in Jerez. It left the oldest driver in the field relishing his return, and aiming as high as ever.

"We have a clear aim and that is for me to become world champion with Mercedes," said Schumacher, who has signed a three-year deal. "Maybe it won't happen immediately, but it is a realistic aim over the three years."

Schumacher, who retired for the first time in 2006, came close to a comeback last season before a neck injury prevented any return. He did admit to a little pain in the neck after his testing over the last three days, but is otherwise in good shape.

"That is down to the excellent care from my wife Corinna," said Schumacher. "She keeps me young and fit. Somehow, I seem to have managed to make myself look a bit younger than I am. Maybe I have good genes."

Alonso is following in Schumacher's footsteps at Ferrari and is relishing the chance to again pit himself against the man he beat to the world crown in Schumacher's last two seasons. "When Michael left it was not the same beating the others," said Alonso. "To beat a legend is very motivating."

Alonso, speaking in the Italian ski resort of Madonna di Campiglio where Ferrari are holding their regular pre-season jaunt, is a happy man following his move from Renault, and that has not always been the case. "I've felt comfortable from my first day. The team has welcomed me like a family," said the 28-year-old.

His relationship with new team-mate Felipe Massa will be closely observed as the pair have previous. "We were competitive people in 2007 [when they clashed in the Spanish and European grands prix] but we have a good relationship and this is the past," Alonso said. "I never ask to be the No 1 driver in any team but I do not want to be the No 2. I'm not saying I want any preference but I work 110 per cent with the team and if the team isn't working to the same level then that's not right."

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari's principal, says all will be well between the pair. "We have two Latin drivers and it's a gush of fresh air," he said, fingers no doubt crossed tight.

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