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Page last updated at 15:07 GMT, Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Ferrari out to beat Michael Schumacher and Mercedes

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali
Domenicali (right) is using Schumacher's return as extra motivation at Ferrari

By Jonathan Legard
BBC Sport at Madonna di Campiglio

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali says Michael Schumacher's return to Formula 1 has fired up the Italian outfit and new recruit Fernando Alonso.

Schumacher, who won five world titles with Ferrari, is returning in 2010 with Mercedes, who won both titles in 2009 under their former guise, Brawn.

But Domencali insists Ferrari have him in their sights, saying: "Michael's return is inner motivation to our team.

"Fernando is the only driver on track to defeat Michael and he wants to win."

Schumacher's renewed rivalry with Alonso, who beat him to the 2005 and 2006 championships when driving for Renault, is one of the most eagerly anticipated match-ups of the new season, alongside 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton's first competitive meeting with Schumacher.

Relationships between the seven-time world champion and Alonso soured during their championship battle in 2006.

Mike H

One flashpoint was when Schumacher deliberately crashed his car at slow speed to stop the Spaniard snatching pole position for the Monaco Grand Prix.

Schumacher has never admitted to deliberately blocking the track but he was found guilty by race stewards and put to the back of the grid.

It was Alonso's turn to be furious at the Italian Grand Prix later that year when he was demoted five places for allegedly holding up Schumacher's team-mate Felipe Massa in qualifying.

Alonso has now arrived at Ferrari as Massa's team-mate for 2010 and he donned the famous red kit for the first time this week at the team's annual winter sports event at Italian ski resort Madonna di Campiglio.

Domenicali is relishing the battles ahead between his new Ferrari line-up and former employee Schumacher.

"Michael's return is further stimulus within our set-up," added Domenicali. "It has also triggered new interest and that is good for racing.

"It is right not to forget that what has happened has left its mark but now we have to turn the page.

"We have to show Michael that this is a strong team. We want to win.

"Fernando and Felipe are able to beat him even if Michael is still very strong."

Schumacher, who spent 11 years with Ferrari, was primed to step in for Massa after the Brazilian was forced to spend the rest of the 2009 season on the sidelines after his crash at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

However, an aggravated neck injury quashed Schumacher's hopes and now Massa, recuperated after fracturing his skull, is ready to return to racing.

Domenicali welcomed the new partnership between Massa and Alonso, who has replaced F1 exile Kimi Raikkonen, and believes it signals a new era for the Italian marque.

Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa (left) and Fernando Alonso
Massa (left) and Alonso have been getting acquainted on a skiing trip

"We have two Latin drivers and it's a gush of fresh air which brings a sparkling, new environment," stated Domenicali.

"Fernando and Felipe are one of the strongest pairings amongst the teams."

The Ferrari boss also downplayed concerns about the balance of power within the team.

Massa emerged as the de factor number one driver in 2008, when he went on to lose the title to Hamilton by a single point.

However, Alonso is known to prefer to be top dog and openly accused McLaren of favouring his team-mate Hamilton during his tumultuous 2007 season with the Woking-based team.

Domenicali will be charged with balancing the power between Massa and Alonso at Ferrari but he is adamant internal rivalry will not be an issue.

"The rules are clear here," added Domenicali. "The drivers appreciate that.

"It was the same with Felipe and Kimi - one was stronger one year and then the other in the next and respect develops.

"People try to generate competition within our team but we have to be more rational inside."

Ferrari's countdown to the 2010 season begins with the launch of their car on 28 January at their Maranello base.

The team stopped developing their 2009 challenger, which was off the pace at the start of the season, last summer to focus on 2010 but Domenicali remains cautious about making predictions before the car has hit the track.

"I believe the prospects are good," said Domenicali. "Despite last season, which was difficult for a lot of reasons, we have consolidated for the future.

"I don't think we'll see how competitive we will be by the first test in February but maybe by the last test.

"Winning immediately would be better but let's stay calm if it doesn't happen."

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see also
Schumacher pleased by test return
12 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Alonso in Ferrari colours
14 Jan 10 |  Formula 1
Massa completes Ferrari F1 test
12 Oct 09 |  Formula 1
Ferrari confirm capture of Alonso
30 Sep 09 |  Formula 1

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