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Schumacher wins French Grand Prix
July 16, 2006 19:42 IST
Last Updated: July 16, 2006 21:01 IST
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher made Formula One history in France on Sunday, becoming the first driver to win the same grand prix eight times.
Schumacher's commanding victory, from pole position on a sweltering afternoon at Magny-Cours, left the seven-times champion 17 points adrift of Renault's Fernando Alonso with seven races remaining.
Spaniard Alonso, the runaway winner in France last year on his way to becoming the sport's youngest world champion, took second place.
Schumacher crossed the line 10.131 seconds clear of the field, lapping all but the top seven, for his 150th appearance on the podium.
"Looking at this race...we clearly have made up ground," said Schumacher. "It (the championship) is far from being over.
"Obviously it's going to be a battle in development but it's a great result when you see this weekend and how difficult it has been at times."
Brazilian Felipe Massa was third for Ferrari, with both Ferraris making three pit stops -- one more than Alonso -- in a race without major incident.
It was the 88th win in Schumacher's career, his fourth of the season and eighth at Magny-Cours.
"We had a great start and we drove our race from there," said Schumacher. "We were not sure how the race would go because we didn't do any long runs (in practice).
"So it was a little bit of a guess how the race would go but I have to say that the car, the tyres, the whole package really worked perfectly."
The German thanked his mechanics for a great job after his car caught fire in Saturday's free practice, an incident that the team played down at the time as they raced to make repairs before qualifying.
Schumacher's history-making achievement was not the sort that the yellow-and-blue-shirted fans crowding the grandstands had hoped to see, 100 years after Renault won the first French Grand Prix at Le Mans.
After Italy's World Cup final success over France in Schumacher's native Germany last Sunday, an Italian team had once again dashed French hopes with Ferrari dominant in Renault's home race.
Alonso put the result into perspective, however.
"To be second, on a difficult weekend for us, is a perfect result," said the Spaniard, who pushed Massa hard into the first corner but then had to wait until the pitstops to go past.
"It was close, I was nearly on the grass at one point so I had to back off," he said.
Schumacher, already far and away the most successful driver in Formula One history, punched the air with his fists as he crossed the line for his second win in a row after Indianapolis on July 2.
Out of the car, the 37-year-old hugged French team boss Jean Todt with the Italian flag in his hands.
Schumacher's younger brother Ralf was fourth for Toyota, after leading for two laps at the first stops, ahead of McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen.
Italian Giancarlo Fisichella was sixth for Renault, with Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa seventh and back on the scoresheet for McLaren after a year's absence.
Test driver de la Rosa was replacing Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, who announced last weekend that he was leaving Formula One for the U.S. NASCAR series next year.
Germany's Nick Heidfeld took the final point for BMW Sauber.
1 M Schumacher (Ferrari)
2 F Alonso (Renault)
3 F Massa (Ferrari)
4 R Schumacher (Toyota)
5 K Raikkonen (McLaren)
6 G Fisichella (Renault)
7 P De La Rosa (McLaren)
8 N Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)
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