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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Schumacher open to new contract
Michael Schumacher
Schumacher has been testing hard ahead of Sunday's San Marino GP
Michael Schumacher says he would be willing to consider extending his contract with Ferrari beyond 2006.

Schumacher was quoted in Italian media as stating talks with Ferrari about a new deal had already begun.

But at a news conference he insisted he had had only informal discussions with team boss Jean Todt over his future.

"I've had a private chat, I'm not in discussions. It's quite open to me about when and (for) what time I want to extend my contract," he said.

"Any time I want to take the decision I can do so.

"I am happy right now. My love for the sport is so strong I would like to continue but I don't see any reason to fix myself too early."

The seven-time F1 champion, who joined Ferrari in 1996, will be almost 38 when his current contract expires next year.

It had been widely expected he would then retire - although in February, Schumacher suggested he could keep on competing until he is 40.

He has always insisted age will not determine when he retires - rather he will walk away when he stops enjoying racing.

The 36-year-old also says Renault's Fernando Alonso would be among the favourites to eventually replace him.

"I consider him, (Kimi) Raikkonen, (Felipe) Massa and (Mark) Webber to be very good drivers," Schumacher said.

Schumacher's suggestion he may extend his stay in Formula One has been welcomed by BAR's British driver Jenson Button.

"I think if he loses this year he'll continue, if he wins he'll probably finish, but I don't know," said Button.

"It's obviously up to him when he stops, but there's no reason for him to give up as he's obviously quick enough.

"It would be great if he carried on in the future. It wouldn't be good initially if Michael left."

This season has been a difficult one so far for the German and going into Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix he trails championship leader Alonso by 24 points.

Schumacher has scored just two points in three races so far this year and needs to win at Imola, Ferrari's home circuit, this weekend to get back into the championship battle.

And the prospect of Ferrari's long run of dominance coming to an end - and his younger rivals starting to beat him on a regular basis - has led some to suggest Schumacher could quit sooner rather than later.

Follow live coverage of the San Marino Grand Prix on the BBC Sport website. First qualifying is at 1200 BST on Saturday, second qualifying at 0900 on Sunday, with the race following at 1300.

Interview: Eddie Jordan on Michael Schumacher

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