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France boosts Schumacher's title hopes
July 18, 2006 11:40 IST
Even if the odds are still against him, Michael Schumacher believes he can turn his record eighth French Grand Prix win into an eighth Formula One championship.
The Ferrari driver's dominant victory at Magny-Cours on Sunday -- with the pole position and fastest race lap on his way to a 150th career podium finish -- only fuelled that confidence.
"We have clearly made up ground and we have to keep on working at that pace and for sure everybody will just keep pushing for the last seven races," said the first driver to win the same Grand Prix eight times.
"It's far from being over."
Yet the 37-year-old German also knows that his young Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa, who started on the front row on Sunday for the second weekend in succession, can make or break those dreams.
While Massa's third place helped Ferrari's constructors' championship hopes, Schumacher needs him to do more -- to drive a wedge between him and his Renault rival.
Unless Alonso makes a major error, about as likely as a Honda victory this season, the balance of power remains with the 24-year-old Spaniard who has a comfortable lead of 17 points.
With seven races remaining, Alonso needs to finish only second in every race to retain the title even if Schumacher wins one after the other.
It has been more than a year since the Renault driver retired from a race and nearly that long since he last failed to score points.
In 11 races, Alonso has won six and finished second four times. He fully expects to be winning again soon, possibly in Schumacher's Hockenheim home race next week.
France was Schumacher's second win in a row, and 88th of his career. The last time he had back-to-back victories, at Imola and the Nuerburgring in April and May, Alonso's response was instant and crushing.
The Spaniard made a pointed reference to that on Sunday.
"I think Indianapolis was a strange race...from the tyres and the difficulties we had last year," he said, casting his mind back to the race before Magny-Cours.
"Maybe we were too conservative or whatever. I think here we were close but not quick enough.
"It's the same as Nuerburgring and Imola but at that point Ferrari seemed to have more development than anybody else and everybody thought that they would win all the races," he added.
"And then we won four consecutive races and hopefully this will happen again from the next race on."
A victory in Hockenheim would be sweet revenge for Ferrari's win in Renault's backyard.
The hope is that Germany also throws up a more entertaining battle than Sunday's largely processional offering at Magny-Cours.
Anyone who watched Sunday's MotoGP at the Sachsenring, with Valentino Rossi leading a thrilling four-way battle to the finish, would welcome that.
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