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Monaco has six appeal for Schumacher

Alan Baldwin | May 19, 2004 15:30 IST

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher has six on his mind as he chases more Formula One records in Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix.

The six-times world champion can become the first driver to win the season's opening six races, having matched Nigel Mansell's 1992 record of five at the last Spanish Grand Prix.

If he does, the German will also join the late Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna as the only drivers to have won the season's glamorous highlight six times.

The 35-year-old is also six pole positions behind Senna's record of 65.

Monaco poses a unique challenge, a relic from another era of motor racing with its tight and twisty streets winding down to the harbour area -- which this year has a new multi-million dollar pit complex.

But Schumacher, the world's most successful driver in Formula One's dominant car, loves it and is hungrier than ever.

"Last year we didn't seem to have that spark about us and this time at Monaco we want to do better," the German told the Ferrari website.

"We always want to win and this is particularly true at Monaco. I like this race as it is such a technically demanding one ... It is a prestigious challenge and this is where the stimulation comes from.

"I am always motivated for Monaco and this time won't be any different."

Schumacher has not won the slowest race on the calendar since 2001, Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya winning for Williams last year and McLaren's David Coulthard the season before that.

MAIN THREAT

Schumacher does not have to look far to identify the danger men as he prepares for a hectic week ahead with the European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring following on May 30.

"I realise that, above all, BAR-Honda are in good shape," said the German. "Monaco is a little like Imola and I seem to recall that they did really well there.

"Renault will also be a threat at Monaco."

Briton Button took pole for BAR at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola, the only man to have beaten Schumacher in qualifying so far this season, and finished second there.

The 24-year-old's confidence is sky-high and he believes he can win in Monaco, despite missing last year's race after being knocked out in the biggest crash of his career.

Renault's Italian Jarno Trulli is also in the groove after rocketing into the lead in Spain with a sensational start from the second row.

His team are the only ones other than Ferrari to have scored points with both cars in every race.

"We will find out how fast we are when we actually get on to the track, but the circuit should suit us," said Trulli. "I think this can be a good race for us."

McLaren, with last year's championship runner-up Kimi Raikkonen on just one point after five races, and Williams will still have a chance on a circuit that punishes mistakes heavily and occasionally throws up a surprise.

Qualifying is always crucial in Monaco, with overtaking almost impossible on bumpy streets hemmed in by a ring of steel.

Schumacher has been on the front row every race so far and has won the last two despite being beaten off the start. He sounded relaxed.

"We don't have any problems with starting," he said.

"We have analysed all the starts of the first five races and come to the conclusion that they are as good as the other teams', even though they don't seem to be, so I am not really worried too much about Monaco.

"Pole position is more important that it is elsewhere but thanks to a sound strategy, you can win even if you start further back."


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