Michael Schumacher has played down speculation that he is keeping close ties with the Ferrari operation in order to groom himself as a potential team leader in future.

Speaking to journalists during a press conference on his first return to the Formula One paddock since retiring at the end of 2006, the German also admitted the he was making the most of life away from the sport, even though he was enjoying watching coverage of the races on television.

There has been much speculation that Schumacher would not be able to stay away from Formula One, his 'super assistant' role at Maranello, with former title rival Mika Hakkinen suggesting that it will not be long before he is back in a car, and others - including manager Willi Weber - claiming that he may investigate possible team ownership opportunities.

It is the latter theme that pre-occupied journalists in Barcelona, where Schumi has resurfaced this weekend, but the German strongly denied that he had any interest in assuming control at Ferrari when Jean Todt finally moves 'upstairs' to take on full CEO responsibilities.

"Never, absolutely not," he stressed, "I have other ambitions that are more important to me in life. My present mission is to work within the structure of the team, to see how their internal changes work, and to help developing Ferrari's road cars.

"I have only been out of this business for six months and there is life after Formula One. After 16 years, it is nice to wake up each morning not thinking about it, and to be able to dedicate it to other things, such as the family. It has been very stimulating.

"Anyway, the team is doing very well. The changes are very positive and are producing the sort of results that convinces me that they can do without Ross [Brawn] and myself."

Asked how he thought replacement Kimi Raikkonen was doing, Schumacher refused to comment specifically, insisting that he was there to view the team as a whole. He did however, admit to keeping in contact with former team-mate Felipe Massa, confirming the Brazilian's claims that he spoke with the seven-time champion by telephone before and after each race.

"Obviously, contact with the team is less because I am with them as much, but I continue to follow everything that they do and I maintain my friendship with Felipe after so many years of work and friendship," Schumacher admitted.



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