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Turkey turns up the heat on F1 title rivals
Alan Baldwin | August 24, 2006 18:08 IST
While Jenson Button lines up as a race winner for the first time in Turkey this weekend, the main spotlight is back on Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.
The Formula One title battle has reached a decisive phase, with five races remaining and the only two men on the starting grid who know what it feels like to be a world champion separated by just 10 points.
Ferrari's seven times champion Schumacher, the most successful driver ever, is chasing the 90th win of his extraordinary career to put his Renault rival under real pressure.
The German feels the title is coming back to him, just as Spaniard Alonso is confident that he can regain momentum after seeing his overall lead whittled down from a hefty 25 points four races ago.
Honda's Button, the Briton who seized the most emotional of victories in Hungary on his 113th start this month, is just another bystander in the clash of champions.
So too is McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, winner from pole position in last year's inaugural Turkish Grand Prix but still chasing his team's first victory of the year.
The focus will shift back to the young champion and the old master, both rested and ready to race after the brief August break.
"I'm feeling very positive," declared Alonso in a team preview. "I am in the position where everybody wants to be -- leading the championship, with the races counting down.
"There was some pressure on us after Germany, but the race in Hungary showed that the R26 (car) is still very competitive, and that you have to take every weekend one at a time.
"Turkey will be a new race with its own challenges, but I am feeling confident," added the 25-year-old champion, who led in Budapest until his first retirement in more than a year.
"This type of circuit suits our car, and Michelin will bring good tyres. So we need to concentrate on our job, put the package together and make no mistakes. Then let's see what the race brings."
Schumacher, winner of three of the last four races, was equally confident.
"I'm sure that we can do well, because we have been going strong recently," he said on his web site.
"We all know that the smallest details can turn everything around. So now we have to focus totally and do our best. Our fighting spirit is the best -- we're ready for Istanbul."
"We took a short break and of course we had a nice time," added the German. "But I didn't really need that. I would have preferred if we had gone straight to the next Grand Prix from Hungary.
"The good news after the weekend at Hungary was that I can win the title on my own strength. So I'll keep on trying to close the gap, our chances are still good."
Schumacher, with Ferrari's home Italian Grand Prix looming after Turkey, could have slashed Alonso's lead in Hungary had he driven tactically rather than fighting aggressively for position.
Instead the German banged wheels with compatriot Nick Heidfeld while fighting for third place, retiring but collecting a lucky point when Poland's Robert Kubica was disqualified for having an overweight car.
"It's no use being sad about the missed chances at Hungary, you've got to look ahead -- things could have been looking a lot worse by now after all," said Schumacher.
"We are still determined to secure the title and Istanbul is the next step for that."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage