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Schumacher sets sights on Senna's six
May 24, 2006 20:37 IST
Michael Schumacher can equal Ayrton Senna's record of six Monaco Grand Prix victories as the spotlight falls on the most glamorous race of the Formula One season this weekend.
Even if the Ferrari driver will never match the late Brazilian champion's run of five wins in a row, he intends to show the watching world that he has lost none of his street-fighting skills.
"Whichever way you look at it, it's absolutely challenging to go racing around on these slippery streets at such high speeds so close to the crash barriers," the seven times world champion declared on his website this week.
"And I love a good challenge. I think we should be able to do well at Monaco," added the German.
Schumacher, the most successful driver in the history of Formula One with a record 86 wins, is second in the championship but 15 points adrift of Renault's 24-year-old world champion Fernando Alonso.
"It's essential to have a good package and the right set-up for all those different kinds of corners and turns, so I'm confident. After all, I really like this circuit a lot," he said.
The 37-year-old will be hoping that Alonso makes a rare mistake in a race that the Spaniard admits is not one of his favourites.
Monaco is a throwback to a bygone era, a motor racing anachronism that frustrates as much as it fascinates and which every team and driver nonetheless yearns to win.
Alonso knows his sequence of 12 podium finishes in a row is likely to come to an end unless he can qualify as close to the front as possible in what promises to be a fraught Saturday knockout session.
"If you are not in the top five in qualifying, then you can forget the podium. So qualifying is where you need to take a lot of risks, but necessary risks. It is the key to the race," said the Spaniard.
"I think everybody will be a little bit worried about qualifying," added Alonso, who has yet to finish on the Monaco podium in four attempts.
"This year qualifying will be very tough. I think the first 15 minutes will be hardest because one yellow flag, or if the guy in front has problems, then you could be out."
Kimi Raikkonen, last year's winner, will be seeking McLaren's first success of the season on the 40th anniversary of the team's Formula One debut with founder Bruce McLaren at the wheel in 1966.
His team mate Juan Pablo Montoya, a Monaco winner with Williams in 2003, will also be one to watch at a crucial point in the season for drivers chasing a seat for 2007.
Others who fancy their chances include Honda's Briton Jenson Button, second in 2004 and still seeking his first win after 107 starts, and Alonso's Italian team mate Giancarlo Fisichella who was second with Benetton in 1998.
"It has always been a great circuit for me, and I have always been quick there," said Fisichella this week.
"It is a very difficult circuit but I have always enjoyed it and, more importantly, felt very comfortable driving there...I am really looking forward to it."
Compatriot Jarno Trulli, winner with Renault in 2004, feels the same way despite having failed to score a point so far this season with Toyota.
Toyota are introducing a heavily-revised car at the race, with changes to the front suspension and aerodynamics.
Right at the back, French fans have a local driver to cheer on with Franck Montagny, making his Monaco debut with tail-enders Super Aguri and hoping to finish at least.
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