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I can handle the pressure: Schumacher
October 05, 2006 19:42 IST
Michael Schumacher is counting on all his years of experience to make the difference in his neck-and-neck Formula One title battle with Renault's Fernando Alonso.
"I've been in this situation for many, many years so I know pretty much how to handle it," the Ferrari driver said on Thursday.
"It's not the first time .... so let's hope it works out."
The two title contenders are level on points with two races to go. Schumacher has won two of his seven titles at Suzuka, in 2000 when it was also the penultimate race, and in 2003 when it was the season's finale.
But the most successful driver in the history of the sport, with 91 wins from 248 starts, also lost out to McLaren's Mika Hakkinen at the circuit in 1998.
While the 37-year-old, who is retiring at the end of the season, sounded confident, others have questioned his ability to perform under pressure.
Renault's engineering head Pat Symonds, who guided Schumacher to his first two titles with Benetton, said before last weekend's Chinese Grand Prix that he believed Alonso is a calmer character.
"I truly do believe that Fernando handles pressure better than Michael," he said. "Throughout his career, there have been many instances of Michael not performing to his potential when he has been under pressure.
"Previously, he always had the safety net of trying again next year, if he didn't win. There is no next year for him now."
Schumacher is ahead of Alonso 7-6 on race victories, meaning that he will take the title on Sunday if he wins and the young Spaniard fails to score, but he brushed that advantage aside.
"It doesn't really matter to be first and in this position, although its nice, but with two races to go it's obviously most important to be there at the end both for the drivers' and constructors' championships," said Schumacher.
"This track is one of my favourites. Unfortunately we didn't race at Spa this year but I am very happy to be here this weekend.
"We come here with a lot of motivation and a lot of good feeling because we believe this track probably might be better for us than China was," added the German, whose last race will be the October 22 season-ender in Brazil.
Schumacher won in the wet in China, with Alonso second after the Renault driver suffered tyre problems after his first pitstop.
However, Renault regained the lead in the constructors' standings, one point ahead of Ferrari, who lost out when Brazilian Felipe Massa failed to finish.
"The conditions were very difficult .... but we have two more races to go and I'm pretty sure Felipe is motivated not only for himself but for the constructors' title," said Schumacher.
Formula One: The Complete Coverage