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JANUARY 28, 2001

Schumacher -- Too many question marks for title challenge

BMW-WILLIAMS driver Ralf Schumacher insisted on Saturday that there were too many question marks hanging over the team to mount a realistic title challenge this season.

Schumacher, speaking at the launch of the FW23 car at Silverstone, said that the team were one year ahead of their long-term plan and admitted he was aiming to consolidate their position this year.

"We are one year ahead of our plan and we are ahead from last year," Schumacher said. "We have quite a different car, new engine, new tires and there are so many question marks."

The German driver also said that the predicted in-fight between himself and team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya would have to remain on hold until more progress was made.

He said: "My target is to stay where we are and come closer to the top two. When we have a car that will be able to do what we want then we might be able to start fighting against each other.

"I think we haven't reached that stage yet and I think whenever we reach that step we are intelligent to avoid any problems. It happens between team-mates sometimes but I'm sure it won't happen between us."

Montoya also dismissed any lasting rift between the pair, and said that he was looking forward to his debut season in Formula One.

"Ralf is a good guy and I don't have any problems with him," Montoya said. "He is a fast driver and it is going to be good because we can push each other. He will focus on his job and I'll focus on mine.

"I think one of the key points this season could be the fact we're on Michelin tires. They (McLaren and Ferrari) don't have those tires and so far the development of the tires seem very fast.

"Maybe some races are going to be slow where we'll be destroyed and some will be fast. It is up to the drivers on Michelin to give them the best information possible."