Ferrari sets date as Michael returns to the fray

Michael Schumacher likes to win races but he also likes to get away from Formula 1 in the winter months and spend time with his family at his various houses which are dotted around Europe. Now he is back and at Barcelona yesterday he gave everyone a reminder that he is still the man to be beaten by setting the fastest time of the day with a lap of 1m15.461s in a Ferrari F2004. This was impressively quicker than all the others but is not necessarily an indication of much as the teams are not going for times at the moment while they work their way through the various development programmes. In part Schumacher's aim will have been to depress the opposition. Ferrari goes into the new season with a modified version of the 2004 car and will have to wait until the Spanish Grand Prix for the arrival of the F2005. The car will be unveiled in Italy on February 21 but will not be raced until it is compeletly ready and reliable.

The recent testing has revealed little of value with the teams being split between Barcelona, Valencia, Jerez and Misano. The Sauber team has been running its all new C24 at Valencia while McLaren and Toyota have been running in Jerez. The Sauber seems to be a very useful car which appeared without much popmp and circumstances following the decision to cancel the high profile launch in Malaysia. The C24 is the first car to have been designed with input from the impressive new Sauber windtunnel in Hinwil and the team says that it has already seen "considerable improvement" over the 2004 car. The Swiss team is aware however that competition this year will be more difficult than ever as it is taking on not only the five big factory-backed teams but also Toyota which seems to be finally moving forward. This means that for a private team such as Sauber the realistic target ought to be to be seventh in the Constructors' Championship. However Sauber hopes that the investment made in the windtunnel and the switch to Michelin tyres will enable it to beat at least one of the bigger teams.

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