The name's Schumacher, Michael Schumacher
MANAMA (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton may dream about being cast in the role of James Bond, but seven-times Formula One champion Michael Schumacher said on Thursday the role was already his.
"I am probably James Bond because I did my seventh title in the 700th grand prix," the German, returning to Formula One at the age of 41 and after three years out, told a Mercedes news conference when asked what movie role he might fill.
"So that means 700 -- 007."
Hamilton, McLaren's 2008 world champion who has yet to race against the most successful Formula One driver of all time, told Reuters on Wednesday that he had always dreamed of being cast in the role of the British secret agent.
With Mercedes fielding an all-German team of Schumacher and Nico Rosberg against McLaren's reigning champion Jenson Button and Hamilton, the season has already been scripted as an Anglo-German battle.
However, Schumacher warned that it could take time for Mercedes, who have taken over 2009 champions Brawn led by his long-time friend and former Ferrari ally Ross Brawn, to get up to speed.
"The most important point is that probably we won't be able to win straight away," he said.
"If possible, great. But I don't think that is the key factor for the season. For me obviously, the goal is the end of the year result and that means not to lose too much ground at the beginning.
"Where exactly we are going to be, I don't know."
The German, who won his five most recent titles with Ferrari and has a record 91 wins to his credit, is returning at a very different time to the one he dominated before retiring at the end of 2006.
There are four world champions on the starting grid and the top four teams all harbour realistic title ambitions in what is shaping up as the most competitive season in years.
"I think you see four teams that have been very close over winter testing," said Schumacher. "The last test showed McLaren quite strong, so was Red Bull and all winter Ferrari was very strong and we believe we are strong."
The German said he could not wait for the challenge, with his wife Corinna joining him in Bahrain and fully supportive of his return.
"I mentioned when I announced the contract that I felt like a little boy of 12 years. I have grown a little bit since then but not much," he declared.
Schumacher said he was not focusing on new opponents, such as Hamilton and Red Bull's young German Sebastian Vettel, but more on the challenge of driving itself.
The oldest man on the starting grid recalled how he had felt on his debut in 1991, when he was racing against the 'old guys' like Brazilian Ayrton Senna, Britain's Nigel Mansell and Frenchman Alain Prost.
"It's a good comparison," he said. "When I arrived in Formula One, it was so far away that my biggest expectations were far off what I finally did. I didn't think I would be able to play on the same playing field.
"But when I arrived I understood that they all cook with the same water we all do. They are all humans, with special abilities but so did I have.
"The same way round, I have the greatest respect for all the other guys that are around. I know I have been very successful and success is lots of details that make it. I will work very hard on those and so do the other guys.
"That's why I respect and expect a tough fight."
(Editing by Ed Osmond, To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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