Tue, Aug 01, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Hockenheim victory puts Schumacher back on track

AP , HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY

German Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, center right with arms raised, celebrates with his team after his 70th victory in a Ferrari at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, Germany, on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

Michael Schumacher doesn't look like a man about to trade in his Ferrari for golf clubs.

If retirement is on Schumacher's mind, he's not showing it.

Schumacher won the German Grand Prix on Sunday to capture his third straight Formula One race and increase the pressure on points leader and defending champion Fernando Alonso.

Alonso finished fifth and held an 11-point lead over Schumacher, who began the day 17 points behind. Alonso has 100 points and Schumacher 89, with six races left and a win worth 10 points.

"We had a superb weekend," Schumacher said. "I can't begin to find the right adjectives to describe ... the performance of the whole team. We have to ride this advantage as long as we can."

"There are still six races to go and there is still room to push and put those in front of us under more pressure. It was very important to have made up several points over our main rivals at the key moment of the season," he added.

Schumacher, who holds all of F1's major records and has seven world championships, won his 89th grand prix, fifth this year, and fourth at Hockenheim.

He has delayed a decision on his future until around the Italian GP next month, and if the Ferrari driver decides to retire, this would have been his final race in his German homeland. It was his 70th grand prix win in a Ferrari. The next race is on Sunday in Hungary.

Alonso took the title last season when Ferrari was unable to compete with Renault.

The Spaniard won six of the first nine races this year, finishing second in the other three.

Questions were raised whether Schumacher, 37 who is holding out on a contract extension with Ferrari and undecided about his future, still had the competitive drive and the mental toughness to battle Alonso, who turned 25 on Saturday.

Consider them answered.

The ambition and the will are still there, and Schumacher hasn't lost any of his speed.

Alonso started the race in seventh place, jumped to fifth after a fast start, and was briefly fourth. He matched his worst finish this season with fifth place.

Renault blamed one of its worst races this season on tire blisters.

"We were not competitive this weekend, but I did the maximum I could and so did the team," Alonso said. "I think that without the blistering we experienced, the podium was a possibility for me today even from seventh position. But we did not have enough to fight Ferrari here ... We need to improve our performance for next week, and fight back strongly."

Schumacher took the lead on lap 10 when pole sitter Kimi Raikkonen had to make an early pit stop, and Schumacher didn't lose the lead again.

Schumacher covered the 67 laps, a race distance of 307km, in 1 hour, 27 minutes, 51.693 seconds -- 0.7 seconds ahead of Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa and 13.2 ahead of Raikkonen. Schumacher was 23.7 seconds faster than Alonso at the end.

Ferrari finished 1-2 for the second time this season and Massa moved to third in the drivers' standings with 50 points.

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