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SCHUMACHER TO BE TREATED AS NUMBER ONE DRIVER

SEPANG, Malaysia, Oct 13 - Michael Schumacher on Wednesday made his first public appearance since deciding to return to the cockpit for Ferrari and promptly announced that he plans to win his comeback race, Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.The double world champion, who has been out of racing action since breaking his leg at the British Grand Prix at Silverstone in July, said he felt capable of winning the inaugural Malaysian event at the new Sepang track despite lacking full fitness.
He also made it clear that the decision to return, after prolonged pleas from the Ferrari team, was his own decision made because he wants to boost the team's bid to lift the constructors' world championship."I am doing this for the team, not for (team mate) Eddie (Irvine),'' he told a news conference close to the Sepang circuit."The only way I can really help Eddie (win the drivers' championship) is if I am leading in front of him and let him by.... otherwise, he has to look after himself.''

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro driver Michael Schumacher drives his go-kart ahead of Ferrari test driver Luca Badoer in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday

Schumacher, looking tired and speaking in a quiet voice, appeared to move gingerly when he entered the conference.He sat alone fielding questions for 20 minutes before being replaced by Briton Irvine, who lies two points behind defending drivers' champion Finland's Mika Hakkinen of McLaren Mercedes-Benz in the title race with two races remaining."I want to try to help the team score the maximum points for the constructors' championship,'' said Schumacher, who pointedly made it clear several times that he will not be driving in a tactical way to support Irvine.Later, his team chief Ferrari sporting director Jean Todt said Schumacher would be treated this weekend as the team's number one driver, but that each man would have a spare car at his disposal. His comments suggested that Irvine's attempt to land Ferrari's first drivers' crown in 20 years was the second priority after the team's title bid.Schumacher said he decided to reverse his earlier decision, announced on October 4 after testing with Ferrari at Mugello, not to take part in any more races this year after two successful days of further testing at Fiorano late last week.He said the decision taken was his and his alone and that he had not bowed to pressure from Ferrari or the team's president Luca di Montezemolo."There was no special meeting with di Montezemolo. I am independent enough to make my own decisions. Of course, he asked me. So did many other people. But in the end, this is the kind of decision you can only make by yourself.''He explained that he felt much more comfortable in the car last week but realised that he needed further testing to be certain. The two days at Fiorano convinced him.Initially, when asked to carry on testing, he had said he expected only to be able to race five laps at a time, but discovered he could do far more than that. "But I still have not done a simulated full race distance in testing,'' he warned.He said he felt pain-free in the car when testing last week and this, added to the improved performance of the car "the best it has been all this year,'' said Irvine -- had persauded him to change his mind.Asked about his fitness, he said he had not been able to do his usual level of preparations and workouts, but believed he would be fit and strong enough to race competitively."Yes, I think I can win the race, so I feel fit enough,'' he said. "I can give 100 per cent in qualifying and then we can see what happens. But it is going to be a tough race with the hot weather and the probability of rain.''Asked if he felt nervous, Schumacher smiled. "A little bit, yes, but not too much. Maybe I will feel different on Friday or on Sunday. But, remember, I am not racing under the pressure of a world championship situation. But I am looking forward to seeing my friends in the team again.''