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Schumacher has Alonso in his sights
Alan Baldwin | September 27, 2006 21:48 IST
Michael Schumacher can cement a remarkable Formula One comeback if he wins Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix.
Lagging behind Renault's Fernando Alonso by 25 points with only six races ago, the Ferrari ace is in a position to take the lead in the championship for the first time since his dominant 2004 season.
"We have high hopes," the seven-times world champion declared on his web site after winning the final European race of his career in front of a horde of Ferrari fans at the team's home Italian Grand Prix.
"I think we can win the title again but...it will be tight. You cannot under-estimate Renault and we will definitely not make that mistake."
Schumacher, winner of a record 90 races, has reeled in his rival since the Canadian Grand Prix in June and now stands just two points adrift of the Spaniard with three races to go.
Both drivers have won six times and, only a month away from retirement after the Brazilian Grand Prix, Schumacher believes he has the momentum to regain his crown and leave Formula One as king of the road.
Ferrari are three points clear of Renault in a championship so finely-balanced that few would bet against it going down to the wire.
Like Alonso, Schumacher knows he has no room for error. But he also has something to prove to Chinese fans in his last appearance at their circuit.
The German has been on the podium at every other circuit on the current calendar, and won at all of them except Turkey.
Yet the 37-year-old has yet to score a point in two unimpressive visits to China since the country's first Grand Prix in 2004.
Last year's race was one of the worst of his career, Schumacher colliding with Minardi back-marker Christijan Albers before the formation lap and then spinning off later while behind the safety car, and 2004 was not much better.
Alonso won last year and, after being controversially penalised by stewards at Monza for allegedly blocking Schumacher's team mate Felipe Massa in qualifying, is eager to reassert himself.
"We have been leading all year, and we want to finish in the same position," said the Spaniard, who joins McLaren at the end of the season.
"I think the motivation is greater than ever. These are the last three races for me with this fantastic Renault team, and also the last races for Michelin in this era of Formula One.
"So our motivation to win is enormous, and I think we can do it."
While all the attention is on the two title contenders, they must beware others who threaten to play a significant role in deciding the outcome of both championships.
It would be ironic if Kimi Raikkonen, leaving McLaren for Ferrari as Schumacher's successor, helped tip the balance against his future employers.
While McLaren would love to see Alonso join them as champion, they want more than anything to win a race to avoid ending the season empty-handed for the first time in a decade.
Raikkonen is just the man to do it and both Ferrari and Renault would be well advised to watch out.
"So far in China I have finished in third and second and my aim for this year is to take the top step of the podium," said the Finn.
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