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Schumacher still has a battle to win
October 08, 2003 21:29 IST
Last Updated: October 09, 2003 01:56 IST
Ferrari's Michael Schumacher faces battles on two fronts on Sunday before he can sit back and celebrate an historic sixth Formula One title.
McLaren and Williams, the first fighting in the drivers' championship with Kimi Raikkonen and the latter in the constructors', are not going to make life easy for the German in Suzuka's season-ender.
While it would be a major shock if Schumacher were not crowned champion, breaking the record he shares with the late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, he cannot afford to relax too much.
"This sport is unpredictable, it would be wrong to be confident too early and presumptuous to take for granted a victory that has still to be claimed," he said this week.
Raikkonen is the German's sole title rival, but the Finn will need a miracle to claw back from a nine-point deficit. Schumacher will be champion without even finishing if Raikkonen does not win the race.
But the German, king of Suzuka with five wins and seven pole positions at the circuit, will want to score points to ensure that Ferrari become the first team to win five constructors' titles in a row.
Ferrari lead Williams by three points.
Schumacher's aim is to serve up a double helping of Ferrari success to relive one of the greatest afternoons of his career.
"We will obviously be doing our best to win both constructors' and drivers' championships. This is our declared objective," he said.
"Things have always gone well for us at Suzuka and I, personally, lived one of the best moments of my career here, the world title in 2000," said the German, who became Ferrari's first champion in 21 years at Suzuka that season.
"The memories of that day, the moment I crossed the finish line, are imprinted in my mind. It would be great if something like that could happen again."
Raikkonen can treat the race as all or nothing, with no constructors' points to worry about. "Obviously I have nothing to lose," the ice-cool Finn said in a team preview. "I know what I have to do and am only focused on that, not how Michael is going, and I know that the team will do everything they can.
"Hopefully it will be quite an exciting race and we will just have to wait and see what happens."
Williams' Colombian driver Juan Pablo Montoya can make up for the disappointment of seeing his title hopes disappear at Indianapolis. "On paper, the Suzuka circuit is the most difficult of the tracks we have raced at recently, but nevertheless I like it and I would count it among my favourites," he said.
"It is fast and with a lot of changes of direction which tend to suit my driving style."
Teammate Ralf Schumacher said he would also do his bit to limit his older brother's success. "Juan and I will be fighting exclusively for the constructors' championship, while Michael and Kimi will be concentrating on the drivers' title," he said.
"As it will be so compelling to watch, I am sure the finale will be well worth an early wake-up call for every Formula One fan."
Sunday's race is also likely to be a farewell to Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 champion with Williams-Renault, who has been replaced at BAR-Honda for 2004, and Sauber's German veteran Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
There is also an intriguing battle between Sauber, BAR, Jaguar and Toyota for fifth place with points worth millions of dollars of extra funding if they can lift a team higher up the standings.