The year ahead: Motor Racing

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Twelve months on, the challenge for the rest is all too familiar: stop Michael Schumacher and Ferrari.

Far from losing motivation and momentum after Schumacher became Ferrari's first champion in 21 years, the German driver and the Italian team were even more emphatic winners last season and the signs from Maranello suggest their hunger is not yet sated.

McLaren Mercedes remained the best of the rest in 2001, but were reeled in by Williams BMW, who threatened to emerge as Ferrari's chief rivals next season. Many believe that, in Juan Pablo Montoya, Williams have the one man able to dethrone Schumacher.

Consistency and reliability will be crucial to Williams' competitiveness. They were irresistible on faster circuits last season, muted on others. If they can match Ferrari on the slower circuits they will put themselves in genuine championship contention.

The subplot at Williams is equally intriguing. Ralf Schumacher, younger brother of Michael, was the more productive of the team's drivers in the first half of last season, but Montoya finished the stronger and is generally regarded as their future star. The Colombian has endeared himself to all in the camp save Schumacher. It is an explosion waiting to happen.

Britain's David Coulthard is McLaren's senior driver following Mika Hakkinen's decision to take a sabbatical. His new team-mate is another Finn, the 22-year-old Kimi Raikkonen, who has three seasons to become Formula One's youngest champion. Unless McLaren raise their game, Raikkonen and Coulthard have little chance.

Renault (née Benetton) contend they can leap from near obscurity to third, above McLaren, which should encourage the young Englishman, Jenson Button, after his torrid season.

Jordan Honda have had their chances of making the top four enhanced by signing Giancarlo Fisichella.

Prediction: Michael Schumacher to equal Juan Manuel Fangio's record of five titles.

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