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Title beckons for Ferrari in Germany
Alan Baldwin | July 21, 2004 19:15 IST
Michael Schumacher could hand Ferrari the Formula One constructors' title with a record-equalling win in front of his home fans on Sunday.
If everything slots into place for him at Hockenheim, the world champion will match his own 2002 record of 11 wins in a single season.
That crown is already sure to stay in Italy for another year, with Ferrari 95 points clear of the French team thanks mainly to the German's astonishing run of 10 wins in 11 races.
Schumacher's unprecedented seventh drivers' title will take a bit longer but there is little doubt that he will win more races on the way.
Yet Hockenheim has to be the one circuit where he might be expected to stumble. The 35-year-old has won there just twice, making it his least successful track of all those on the current calendar.
But he is confident enough to have abandoned his usual caution in the face of overwhelming evidence.
"Hockenheim will be particularly exciting, I'm sure about that, above all because there is a possibility for Ferrari to secure the constructors' title with a certain combination," Schumacher said on his website.
"That doesn't mean I feel any extra pressure. We are so strong as a team this year that we will win that title. If it doesn't happen this weekend, it will a bit later."
"I assume we will be in contention for victory but I also expect strong competition," Schumacher added. "Anyway, I will give it my best."
Ferrari will be fancied to win even if their rivals are regrouping after failing to put up much of a fight in the first half of the season.
While Williams triumphed last year, with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya winning from pole position and also setting a lap record, the BMW-powered team have not tasted victory since then and appear out of sorts.
"We know that it won't be easy as our competitors are more aggressive than ever," said Montoya. "Nevertheless, we have always performed well at this track and that gives us more confidence."
Schumacher's younger brother Ralf, injured in a crash at Indianapolis last month, is still absent and Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia steps up to make his racing comeback after being dropped by Jaguar last year.
Mercedes-backed rivals McLaren, with 2003 championship runner-up Kimi Raikkonen second at Silverstone the weekend before last, are back in business and hungry for a first win in more than a year.
BAR are also eager to get back on the podium to show that their early season challenge is not faltering after being outperformed by McLaren in Britain.
Further back, Germany-based Toyota and Sauber could cause a few surprises.
Toyota will debut a heavily redesigned car that could breathe life into their so-far disappointing campaign while Sauber have been revitalised by an aerodynamic overhaul.
"We know from simulations what kind of step we could make, but we have to wait until Friday to see how the data translates to the track," said Toyota technical director Mike Gascoyne.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage