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Schumacher wins but doubts linger
Alan Baldwin | April 24, 2006 18:51 IST
Michael Schumacher believes he can fight for a record eighth Formula One title after taking Ferrari back to the top step of the podium at Imola.
"I think we should be pretty good from now on," the German said after celebrating his first victory in 13 races and ending Renault's run of four in a row on Sunday.
"We should be competitive everywhere from now on," he added after his 85th career win and record 66th pole position.
Schumacher had promised to fire up Ferrari's championship challenge at the San Marino Grand Prix, his team's home race at the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit, and he was as good as his word.
The win moved him up to second place overall, 15 points adrift of Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso, who was runner-up on Sunday.
Yet even last season, with just one hollow win in the six-car U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis, Ferrari were quick at Imola with Schumacher clambering all over the back of Alonso's winning Renault.
Just as one swallow does not make a summer, one win does not make a championship and rivals kept an open mind about just how much of a threat the glamour team now posed.
"Ferrari historically seem to pull it out of the bag at Imola, regardless of what's happened in the first three races and we've seen that yet again," said Honda team boss Nick Fry.
"Clearly they've done a better job here and clearly the Bridgestone tyres have worked better here.
"The interesting thing will be -- is that sustained at Nuerburgring and beyond? We'll see."
McLaren managing director Martin Whitmarsh said his team could have beaten Ferrari on Sunday had Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya qualified on the second row rather than the fourth. Montoya ended up third, with Raikkonen fifth.
"We'll see now at Nuerburgring and Barcelona where Ferrari are," said Whitmarsh, whose team are still second in the constructors' standings.
"Are Ferrari considerably stronger this year than last? Yes. Are Bridgestone stronger? Absolutely -- the rules were changed to allow them to be so.
"I believe that we will beat Ferrari over the course of the year, even at our current performance level," he added. "We need to lift our performance level to beat Renault.
"We have to accept that Renault is the benchmark at the moment."
World champion Alonso will not have lost any sleep over Sunday's race. Tellingly, it was the gain over his team mate Giancarlo Fisichella and Raikkonen that he highlighted afterwards.
"Michael for sure will be a contender and a big rival at the end of the championship," said the 24-year-old Spaniard.
"But he is not the only one. Both McLarens will be there and I hope Fisichella will be at the end fighting. It can be more than two or three drivers at the end of the championship.
"We also have to remember that Ferrari had a very bad season last year but here at Imola they were one second quicker than us."Imola is quite a different circuit so we will find out in the next two or three races who the quick cars are in 2006."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage