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  Thursday, 13 February, 2003, 14:53 GMT
Schumacher backs 'improved' McLaren
David Coulthard's McLaren ahead of Michael Schumacher's Ferrari in Monaco
Coulthard claimed McLaren's sole victory in 2002
Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher is tipping McLaren to threaten Ferrari's domination of the sport this coming season.

Schumacher has been impressed by David Coulthard's times in recent testing and thinks the 2003 title race could be a much closer affair.

"I have been impressed by the step forward carried out by McLaren," the German told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I think it is due above all to the good work done by their tyre supplier (Michelin).

"But on the other hand, I have already said that I expect a closer championship."

Schumacher also backed the FIA's ruling on new technical changes, banning some electronic driving aids.

"They are correct decisions for the future of the sport," he said.

Mercedes-powered McLaren were third last season behind Ferrari and Williams, with Coulthard picking up their sole win in Monaco.

Coulthard was fastest in testing in Valencia on Thursday and the only driver to lap in under one minute 11 seconds.

Schumacher clocked a time of 1:11.528 after running into the gravel trap on a windy afternoon.

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