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Montoya to turn heat on Schumacher in Hungary
Alan Baldwin | August 20, 2003 20:05 IST
Juan Pablo Montoya and Williams can strike a double title blow in Hungary this weekend at a track that for the past two years has witnessed Ferrari championship celebrations.
The Colombian arrives as Michael Schumacher's main rival, the Ferrari ace now just six points ahead, with the balance of power shifting Montoya's way in the closest and least predictable title fight in years.
Montoya won the last German Grand Prix by a 65 second margin -- the biggest the sport has seen since 1994 -- and could even seize the overall lead on Sunday in the Hungaroring's cauldron-like conditions.
So too can Williams, two points behind Ferrari in the constructors' standings.
The revamped track is the second slowest on the calendar, after Monaco, and is known as a tough circuit to overtake on.
Ferrari have gone well in Hungary in the past but Montoya won Monaco this year and the combination of the FW25's shorter wheelbase and Michelin tyres may be hard to beat.
Montoya, who worked out in Miami over the brief August break to prepare for the Hungarian heat, will be Williams's main hope.
Team mate Ralf Schumacher, fourth overall and 18 points adrift of older brother Michael, will struggle to score after being penalised 10 places on the starting grid for causing a first-lap collision at Hockenheim.
Montoya, with six podium finishes in a row, sounded confident.
"I feel fit and ready for any hot conditions," he said. "We haven't performed very well in Hungary recently, but our car is much improved this year so I am sure it will suit the Hungaroring much better.
"I know the team is very motivated and so am I."
Schumacher, fighting for an unprecedented sixth championship, sealed his fourth title in Budapest in 2001 while Brazilian team mate Rubens Barrichello handed Ferrari a fourth successive constructors' title there last year.
Nothing will be decided this time, even if Schumacher seals his 50th career win for Ferrari with his first victory since Canada in June.
The title race looks set to go down to the wire in Japan, with four races remaining and a handful of drivers still in with a chance.
"The way the season has gone so far has shown that the situation changes a lot more often than we could have expected. So, it has always been difficult to make predictions," said Schumacher this week.
"Performance is linked to more than just one factor...so, I think the situation is very open and hopefully, in Budapest, we will be stronger than people expect.
"Everyone is very motivated and I know this not just because of the experience of the past few years we have spent together, but also because of all the phone calls we have exchanged in the past few days.
"Everyone is concentrating fully. Budapest doesn't frighten me."
McLaren, also on Michelin tyres, will be pushing hard to keep Finland's Kimi Raikkonen in the hunt with the youngster now nine points adrift of Schumacher.
Renault, effectively assured of fourth place in the championship, also fancy their chances with Spaniard Fernando Alonso tipped by some as a possible winner.