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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Formula 1 Revs Up Year Down Under


MELBOURNE, Australia -- Double world champion Michael Schumacher said Wednesday he did not think his rivalry with Briton Damon Hill would continue in this year's Formula One world championship.

The German driver, who makes his debut for Ferrari in Sunday's opening Australian Grand Prix, also reiterated he did not feel his new F310 car would be competitive enough in the early stages of the season for him to be a championship contender.

Hill said he was not surprised at Schumacher's comments.

"I think Michael is just trying to endorse the fact that Ferrari's car is very new and has had a lack of testing," he said.

Schumacher said he did not think Ferrari would be able "to mount much of a challenge.

"I don't think we are in a position yet to go for pole positions or victories, so I think this year's title race will be between Williams and Benetton.

"And, of course, if we are not close to them then it will not be possible for there to be any rivalry. But it is a long season and we will do our best." Hill and his new Williams teammate -- Canadian Formula One rookie Jacques Villeneuve -- are the preseason favorites.

"Right now we're competitive and have a little bit of an edge, I think, but it won't take long for people to catch up,'' Hill said.

Schumacher also said that he felt he and Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine would be at a disadvantage because they had not been able to do enough preseason testing and had suffered a string of problems with the Ferrari.

"We will have to work very hard to find the right set-up here," he said.

The 1996 season sees several new rules come into operation on the 16-race Grand Prix circuit.

Most notably, Fridays now will be given over to practice only with a sole hour-long qualifying session Saturdays.

Drivers who are not within a set target of the pole sitter will be excluded from the starting grid -- which will increase the likelihood of smaller fields.

Meanwhile, protesters tore through perimeter fencing Wednesday morning and staged a brief demonstration on the Albert Park circuit.

Victorian state police said in a statement that 13 demonstrators, angry the city fringe park has been turned into a race track, were apprehended by security guards and police officers.

None of the protesters was arrested.

The protest was organized by the Save Albert Park group opposed to the race being moved from Adelaide to leafy Albert Park. On the other hand, the drivers have given the redeveloped circuit their seal of approval.

The circuit has not been used for 40 years but has a motor racing history, having staged several important races in the 1950s -- including the so-called Olympic Grand Prix in 1956, when Melbourne hosted the Games.

Former driver Stirling Moss, who won the 1956 race in a Maserati, said: "It is a beautiful track. It really is fantastic. It is the finest conventional road circuit I've seen, by miles. There is nothing else to compare with it."