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Schumacher over the moon after Chinese victory
October 01, 2006 20:34 IST
Michael Schumacher was over the moon after a Chinese Grand Prix victory that returned him to the top of Formula One and fuelled his hopes of retiring with an eighth title.
With impeccable timing, Sunday's win coinciding with China's mid-Autumn Moon Festival, the Ferrari ace breathed a sigh of considerable relief as he celebrated one of the sport's great comebacks.
At a stroke he wiped out Fernando Alonso's two-point lead and set up a thrilling finale to the closest season in years. The 37-year-old goes into the last two races level-pegging with his Renault rival on 116 points but 7-6 ahead on wins.
Back at the top for the first time since 2004, when he celebrated his seventh championship before Alonso dethroned him last year, there is now every chance the final race of Schumacher's extraordinary career will also be the decisive one.
China was his biggest hurdle, the German having failed to finish even in the top 10 in his two previous appearances in Shanghai.
"From the last three races, this was the one race that gave me the most headaches about what could happen because in the past we didn't always do well here," he told a post-race news conference.
"That's behind us now. And I think there are races now coming that are better suited for us. We need everyone out there to cross their fingers for us and then we'll get it."
His smile afterwards said bring on Japan and Brazil, both races he has won in the past.
Schumacher had started sixth on the grid after performing heroics in qualifying when he was the only driver on Bridgestone tyres in the top 10.
Alonso, last year's winner, had started on a pole and led from the start.
"It was more than I had wished for being able to hold my position at the start and then I was able to overtake a few," Schumacher told Germany's Premiere television.
"It was a good omen and I started thinking I might only fall two [more] points [behind Alonso] here and that would have been good considering the circumstances.
"If someone had offered me that before the race I would have signed immediately. But it's naturally fantastic that I was actually able to pick up two points here today.
"I went into the race today with the motto of 'damage limitation'. That I was able to get the victory makes it all the more beautiful."
Schumacher had been 25 points adrift of Alonso after the Canadian Grand Prix in July when the Spaniard looked destined to seal his second title with races to spare.
Since then he has won five of the seven races and Ferrari six in total.
"I am the oldest driver in the field. I can live quite well with that. Fortunately I'm not the slowest," he said of the rivalry between him and Alonso that has seen the Spaniard question his sportsmanship.
"That's the important thing, to stay concentrated, to judge things the right way and not be distracted by other things that are important to other people. So I just go out and drive my race as best as I can."
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