Wed, Sep 01, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Schumacher wins 7th consecutive championship title

AP , SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM

Michael Schumacher finally ended the suspense.

Though an unprecedented seventh season title was conceded to him months ago, the dominating German finally made it official. And he didn't even have to win to do it.

By finishing second to McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen in Sunday's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa, Schumacher picked up enough points to eliminate his only remaining challenger -- Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello.

"I would have rather taken the championship with a victory," Schumacher said. "But today we simply weren't strong enough in the right moments. We have won so many races this year, it was clear at some stage somebody else would win. And today it happened."

Schumacher finished 3.1 seconds behind Raikkonen in a race scattered with accidents and made close as the safety car came out three times. Schumacher's Ferrari teammate Rubens Barrichello was third.

Raikkonen's winning time over the 6.976km circuit was 1 hour, 32 minutes, 35.274 seconds, at an average speed of 198.898kph.

Through 14 races, Schumacher has 128 points and Barrichello 88. Four races still remain -- Italy, China, Japan and Brazil. Though Barrichello has a mathematical chance to tie the German on points, Schumacher wins the title because he has won more races than Barrichello.

Schumacher was subdued after the race. He holds nearly every Formula One record, and seven titles is two more than the nearest challenger Juan Manuel Fangio. The Argentine set his mark five decades ago. His record of career victories (82) is 31 ahead of Alain Prost and twice that of Ayrton Senna (42).

"It's not anywhere like what I've felt the sixth or fifth time," said Schumacher, 35.

"Thoughtful. That says it all."

In a predictable season with Schumacher in command, Sunday's race had more action than the rest combined.

There were six different leaders, and four cars were out after just 30 seconds when Jaguar's Mark Webber and BAR's Takuma Sato collided. Caught up in a chain reaction, Minardi's Gianmaria Bruni and Jordan's Giorgio Pantano were also gone.

The four were uninjured, but the early mayhem did minor damage to the cars of Barrichello, Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Nick Heidfeld and Oliver Panis.

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