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Schumacher: Older, but hungrier

The 2006 season could be the last one for the oldest and the most sucessful driver on Formula One starting grid.

othersports Updated: Jan 03, 2006 16:12 IST

Michael Schumacher turns 37 on Tuesday, hungry already for a year that could be his farewell to Ferrari and last shot at an eighth Formula One championship.

"Let's hope for a better season," said the German on his website after the dominance of 2004 translated into a depressing 2005.

"It's not looking too bad...there are many things pointing in a good direction.

"Most of all, I see the same fighting spirit (at Ferrari) that I feel," said Schumacher. "We're all on the same page; we want to play a major role in the fight for the title (in 2006). So we're going to go for it again."

The oldest driver on the Formula One starting grid - and also the most successful ever with his 84 wins, 142 podiums and 1,248 points scored - knows he cannot defy time for much longer.

With Renault and McLaren dominant last year, and Toyota spending heavily to move into contention, he faces an uphill challenge.

Since the 1960s, only three men have won championships while 37 or older and the last was France's Alain Prost in 1993, his final season when he was 38.

"He won't win another world championship," Finland's former champion Keke Rosberg told F1 Racing magazine last month, disagreeing with plenty of other insiders who believe tyre and engine rule changes will only help the German.

"The world - and the world championship - now belongs to the young ones."

Meanwhile, Ferrari have said Schumacher is welcome to stay on after his contract expires at the end of the year and he has said he wants to continue for as long as he is enjoying himself.

But the situation has been complicated by world champion Fernando Alonso's surprise move from champions Renault to McLaren for 2007.

With Schumacher now entering the twilight of his career, however competitive he remains, there is a clear successor to the German available for next year in Kimi Raikkonen.

Ferrari have openly admired the Finn since he finished runner-up to Schumacher in 2003, with paddock speculation suggesting he may even have a pre-agreement with the team.

Raikkonen's McLaren contract expires this year and the 26-year-old is now the hottest property on the market.

First Published: Jan 02, 2006 19:34 IST