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Schumacher seeks boost from home crowd
Alan Baldwin | July 26, 2006 23:37 IST
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher says his home crowd can make all the difference as he chases a hat-trick of wins in what could be his final German Grand Prix on Sunday.
The seven times world champion, who has yet to announce whether he is retiring or continuing in 2007, arrives at the Hockenheim circuit 17 points adrift of Renault's Fernando Alonso with seven races remaining.
Yet even if world champion Alonso has the advantage, Schumacher has the momentum - his wins in the United States and France bringing back the familiar victory leap with a vengeance.
Alonso has said that a victory in Schumacher's backyard would be worth more than 10 points because of the psychological effect.
Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of Formula One, knows all about mind games however.
He believes the Spaniard, who boasted before Magny-Cours that he and Renault would resume 'normal service' after being trounced at Indianapolis, will be the one nursing a headache.
If Schumacher wins again, for the fourth time at Hockenheim, it will begin to look as if the service being resumed is the Ferrari supremacy of 2004 rather than Alonso's run of four successive wins up to Indianapolis.
"This race is a little bit of an extra motivation for all German drivers," said Schumacher on his website this week. "Even if it's not visible with respect to the lap-times, the psychological effect is definitely there.
"We always get so much support from the fantastic fans at Hockenheim, so your subconscious mind takes that along into the weekend.
"It's no secret that we're going to go for the hat-trick," he added. "We've got our minds set on making red the colour of the championship."
To do that, Schumacher will need Brazilian team mate Felipe Massa to drive a wedge between him and Alonso, last year's winner at Hockenheim.
The 24-year-old Spaniard need not win another race this year to retain his title, providing he finishes consistently second -- and Massa has beaten Alonso only once this season.
If Schumacher does claim his 89th win, it will also be tyre suppliers Bridgestone's 100th in Formula One.
McLaren, in partners Mercedes' home race, could also be contenders even if Kimi Raikkonen has retired in all five of his appearances at Hockenheim and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya has been replaced by Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa.
Last year the Finn led from pole position until sidelined by an hydraulics failure. The year before he also led.
Germany-based Toyota cannot be excluded either as podium finishers after fourth places in the last two races.
Japanese rivals Honda, with Jenson Button starting on the front row last year and finishing third, can hope for less with the Briton out of the points in his last five races.
However last week's testing times raised morale for what will be Honda's 300th grand prix, largely as engine suppliers, since 1964.
Among the tail-enders, Super Aguri will debut their new car along with a new race driver - Japan's Sakon Yamamoto replacing France's Franck Montagny.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage