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Schumacher still motivated despite losing seat

Mercedes Formula One driver Michael Schumacher of Germany walks through the paddock as it rains ahead of the first practice session of the S
Mercedes Formula One driver Michael Schumacher of Germany walks through the paddock as it rains ahead of the first practice session of the S

(Reuters) - Michael Schumacher looked forward to one of his favorite race weekends on Tuesday despite knowing it could be the last Japanese Grand Prix of his Formula One career.

Mercedes announced last week that the seven times world champion, now 43, will be replaced in 2013 by McLaren's Lewis Hamilton.

The German also arrives at Suzuka with a 10-place penalty on the starting grid hanging over him for a careless collision with the Toro Rosso of Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne at the previous Singapore Grand Prix.

"My motivation is completely intact after the news last week, especially because Suzuka is one of the season's highlights for me," Schumacher said in a team preview.

"I enjoy the circuit, it has sections that challenge you as a driver like almost nowhere else. Then there are the fans: They love motor racing and it is fun to feel their passion."

Schumacher clinched two of his titles at Suzuka, in 2000 and 2003, while another with Benetton in 1995 was secured at Japan's Aida track.

The German has also won six times at Suzuka.

Although he has no seat at Mercedes next year, after making his comeback with them in 2010 following his retirement from Ferrari in 2006, Schumacher has yet to declare time on his Formula One career.

Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn told Reuters Television last week that he expected his friend to take time considering his options.

The team have offered him an unspecified role next season while Ferrari-powered Sauber, with whom he raced in sportscars before entering Formula One, could be interested in putting him in one of their cars according to some reports.

Sauber's Mexican driver Sergio Perez is joining McLaren next year as Hamilton's replacement.

Schumacher is mathematically out of the title chase, 12th overall and 151 points behind Ferrari's Fernando Alonso with six races and a maximum of 150 points remaining.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by John O'Brien)

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