Michael Schumacher has shared his thoughts on the forthcoming Formula 1 campaign, suggesting that Ferrari, Renault, Brawn GP and Toyota are currently occupying the pound seats - and describing the FIA's newly-announced sporting and technical changes as 'astonishing'.

Though he retired from active competition in the top flight at the end of 2006 - following a record-breaking 91 grand prix victories and seven world championship titles over the course of his remarkable 16-year stint in F1 - Schumacher has remained closely involved as an advisor to Ferrari, the team with whom he claimed five of those crowns.

The German is confident that the Scuderia is in strong shape again to go for glory in 2009 - but he was somewhat less optimistic about the chances of the Maranello-based concern's traditional rival McLaren-Mercedes.

"I have been at the last pre-season tests in Spain to get an overview of the situation," Schumacher wrote on his personal website, "and I can clearly say 'let the season come!' I say this both as a fan of motorsport and of Ferrari. The last impressions showed that we look pretty good and should be in a position to fight for the world championship titles.

"The picture to me at the moment is that there are several teams able to be at the front. Besides us there are Renault and Toyota, and BMW and Williams as well.

"On the other hand, after Barcelona you clearly have to say that Ross [Brawn's] team was outstanding. They were one second in front, and if they can take this into the season they are strong as well - even if probably the big teams will cut that advantage away with time. McLaren at the moment looks pretty bad."

The recently-turned 40-year-old was similarly outspoken on the problems of the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) technology and the World Motor Sport Council's dramatic rule changes - according to which an optional ?30 million budget cap for teams will be introduced from the 2010 campaign onwards, and a new system of determining the destination of the world championship laurels is to come into force, with the title henceforth to go to the driver with the greatest number of race victories at season's end, not necessarily the most points.

"You have to say that KERS is a risk for all the teams using it," 'Schumi' contended, "with the restricted testing possibilities. There are, as always, certain question marks before the first races - but this is what makes the whole thing so attractive, isn't it?

"I doubt the same goes for the new rules given out at such a late moment prior to the season - something which to me is really, well, astonishing. In all the years, when the majority wanted to have a rule change for a good reason, they always said that would not be possible in the short-term or so late before a season.

"I cannot imagine [how] these changes will help F1, especially regarding the new system to find the champion. I cannot see how it makes sense to eventually have a world champion who has fewer points than the driver coming in second, even if I also think it is a good move to try to strengthen the winner's position. In general we should make sure that F1 remains the top series of motorsport, displaying its competition at the highest technology level."

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