Michael Schumacher will keep racing a Ferrari in Formula One but only if he can maintain a winning margin. The German hinted to the Sunday Mirror newspaper that retirement might beckon if another 'scarlet crisis' strikes his Maranello-based outfit in 2004.
'It was very hard for all of us at Ferrari at the start [of 2003] and I would not like to be in that situation again,' he said. 'I much prefer to be winning.'
Recently, the 35-year-old warned that he would hang up his six-times title-winning helmet if a member of Ferrari told him he was no longer on the pace.
Schumacher now insists that Ferrari 'can't guarantee' a competitive car in 2004. 'It was tough to win the championship last season and I think it will be even tougher this season.
'It is going to be a big fight and very tight again with our main rivals, but I am optimistic our new car will give us another step forward.'
Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has already promised Schumacher a 'new car' from the very first grand prix of the new season, in Melbourne.
'I think we can be confident for the new season,' Kerpen-born Michael, who is tipped to climb back into the F1 seat in about two weeks, asserts.