Sat, Jul 24, 2004 - Page 20 News List

M. Schumacher heads home for German Grand Prix

AP , HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY

Juan Pablo Montoya is entering the home stretch in his career as a Williams driver.

Next year the 28-year-old Colombian will be driving a McLaren.

However Montoya has something that six-time world champion Michael Schumacher doesn't have: A victory in the most recent German Grand Prix when he won in 2003.

That victory was the last race that Montoya won. He currently has 25 points in 2004, sixth place in the driver standings with a best of second in the Malaysian Grand Prix in March.

He remembers the victory easily.

"This was nice because it was the Germany Grand Prix, it was the Schumacher's home and it was a BMW track so from every aspect it was good," Montoya said.

"And it wasn't a close win -- it was a win by miles, so that was nice. Every victory has got its nice things."

Since coming to Williams in 2001 after a successful CART career, his F1 career has had its ups and downs. He had a victory in the Indy 500 in 2000 and was the 1999 CART champion.

He has had 58 Formula One races, three wins and 11 pole positions with six races left in the season after this weekend's German Grand Prix.

Last November it was announced that he will drive for McLaren in 2005, although he had one more year to go with Williams in 2004.

Coming down to the last half-season, Montoya finds it a little awkward.

"Testing has been restricted a little bit. They put somebody else in to drive the car but it is not a big deal," he said.

"I am pretty happy with the way things are going -- I have some time for myself, everything is good in a way."

However he will be trying to stay ahead of Schumacher, whose recent performances at Hockenheim are less than impressive.

The Ferrari driver has won only twice here in 11 starts, his worst record at any track. The last time he had to drop out of any race because of a mechanical failure -- not a crash like in Monaco earlier this year -- was at the German GP in 2001.

He finished just seventh at Hockenheim last year, one of the rare times he failed to make the podium in any race over the past five years.

Still, Schumacher is optimistic as he tries for his 11th victory in 12 races this season. In 2002 he set the record of 11 wins in 17 races.

"Hockenheim, for me, has always been one of the most important rounds of the season, even though it hasn't been the scene of my best moments in the past," Schumacher said ahead of Sunday's race.

Ferrari, meanwhile, can clinch the team title with a little help from others. It is currently 95 points ahead of second-place Renault. If it leads by 108 after Hockenheim it will gain its sixth consecutive team title and 14th overall.

"We would rather do it here," Schumacher said. "It would be a nice present for our fans if we could do it."

Barring injury or illness, Schumacher is virtually assured of his seventh world Formula One title. He has 100 points with only teammate Rubens Barrichello at 74 within shouting distance.

Jenson Button of BAR-Honda is the best of the rest at 53 but his chances to overtake Schumacher could evaporate over the next two races. A victory is worth 10 points and there are only seven races left in the season.

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