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Schumi can kiss title goodbye
Alan Baldwin |
July 11, 2005 20:13 IST
Michael Schumacher can kiss goodbye to the Formula One title he has guarded so jealously for the last five years.
Even if it will take several races yet before the mathematics force the seven-times world champion to admit defeat, the writing was clearly on the wall after Sunday's British Grand Prix.
With eight races remaining, the German is 34 points adrift of Renault's Fernando Alonso. More crucially, Ferrari are nowhere near closing the gap on Renault and McLaren.
The top two teams are in a class of their own, with McLaren ahead on pace but behind on points. Schumacher's only real chance will be if Alonso and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen are somehow taken out of the equation.
It happened in Indianapolis, when none of the Michelin-equipped teams raced, but that was a one-off. Michelin have won all the other races so far this year and can be expected to keep on doing so.
Such is Alonso's advantage that he does not need to win again to be champion. Even in the extremely unlikely event of Schumacher winning the remaining eight races, Alonso would need only to finish third every time.
Schumacher was sixth at Silverstone, his lowest-placed finish at the circuit.
Even Raikkonen, who was third and is now eight points ahead of Schumacher, said he saw his title hopes slipping away despite having a car that could win all the remaining races.
"I wish we could still race for the title but that's a distant, distant hope after this race," Schumacher told Germany's Bild newspaper on Monday.
"Sixth place, I clearly can't be satisfied with that," he said on his website. "Not because of the position, but because of our pace during the race.
"It's clearly not looking good for us in that respect, there's no two ways about it. In comparison to our competitors we've taken a step back rather than a step forward in terms of development.
"You have to be realistic about that. But this doesn't mean that we are going to give up, it's just a sum-up of the facts. We are not fast enough right now to be able to compete to win a race," added the German.
Ferrari boss Jean Todt was no more encouraging.
"We are not capable of matching the pace of the leaders and the final result is a reasonably accurate reflection of the current pecking order here at Silverstone," he said on Sunday.
"The only satisfying point to take away from here is the level of reliability we demonstrated this afternoon."
The one race this season where Schumacher has looked genuinely impressive was San Marino, at Ferrari's home Imola circuit, in April.
The German hounded Alonso to the finish, with the Spaniard defending his position brilliantly. That race, rich in symbolism, could haunt Schumacher as the moment when one champion passed the baton to another.
At Silverstone, Schumacher was never a threat to any of the leaders.
One statistic says it all: This time last year, Ferrari had scored 100 points more than they have at present. Schumacher had taken 10 wins from 11 races.
The 2005 title battle has effectively become a two-man race, between Alonso and Raikkonen.
"I am still looking forward to my home race in Hockenheim, but I wish I could promise the fans there a bit more than this," he said on Sunday.
The German Grand Prix is next on July 24.