SPORT

Schumacher aims for seven at Silverstone

LONDON July 3. Ferrari's Michael Schumacher aims to get back in the winning groove on Sunday with his seventh success of the season at the circuit that still haunts him.

The Formula One world champion suffered the most serious accident of his career to date at Silverstone when he smashed into a tyre wall and broke his leg during the 1999 British Grand Prix.

But, even though July has proved a cruel month for the German in the past, it will be hard to bet against him taking the 60th win of his career this time.

So enormous is Schumacher's advantage - 46 points - that he could take a holiday until the end of August and still be leading the championship when he came back.

Ferrari was utterly dominant at the last race at the Nuerburgring, when Schumacher dutifully obeyed orders and tailed Brazilian team-mate Rubens Barrichello to their third one-two finish of the season.

Since then both men and Ferrari have appeared at an FIA hearing to face questions about their behaviour in Austria in May where Barrichello was ordered to give way to Schumacher.

With a joint $1 million fine meted out between the parties for a breach of podium protocol, Schumacher can now get back to the business of winning and demoralising opponents.

``We can feel well prepared as all our testing has been very promising,'' he said at the weekend.

``Our recent tyre tests at Mugello were very instructive. I would say we have every reason to be confident for Silverstone.''

Although McLaren has won at Silverstone for the past three years, Ferrari has been on pole for the last two.

Schumacher, the greatest driver of his era, could wrap up a record-equalling fifth title this month knowing it could have been his sixth had he not seen his hopes destroyed by the 1999 crash.

``Of course the memory of it (the 1999 crash) is still there. You never forget something like that completely,'' he said.

``After all it's not exactly a pleasant feeling, driving into a wall without brakes and knowing what's in store for you.''

But Schumacher says he will put it out of his mind at this year's race — concentrating solely on another 10 points.

``I am not going to Silverstone with a strange feeling in my stomach,'' he said.

``When I am in the cockpit all the memories vanish. Of course I will be giving it 100 per cent at Silverstone.''

The main opposition looks like coming from Williams, with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya hoping his luck will change after three successive pole positions have been followed by three retirements.

He has yet to match team mate Ralf Schumacher by winning this season, his last attempt wrecked when he and Ralf banged wheels at the Nuerburgring as the German squeezed past at the first corner.

Montoya, third in the championship behind Ralf, was angered by the move and he has plenty to get off his chest in what he expects to be a tough race.

``Our success really depends on the tyres,'' he said. ``Hopefully it doesn't rain, then all should be well for us. I really feel like making up for the last three disappointing races.

``But the British Grand Prix promises to be a tough one.''

Silverstone, as team boss Frank Williams admits, is a special place for the team who took their first win at the circuit with Swiss Clay Regazzoni in 1979 and their 100th victory with Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.

The team hope new aerodynamic parts will make their car far more competitive than it was at the Nuerburgring.

McLaren's David Coulthard, winner twice in the last three years, is the best hope of a home winner but he expects Ferrari and Williams to be scrapping for the spoils.

Fellow Scot Allan McNish makes his home debut for Toyota while Jaguar will be keenly watched for signs of progress as they wheel out their revised R3.

The race could prove to be Eddie Irvine's last home appearance, although the Northern Irishman has steered away from discussing his plans for next season.

British American Racing, based at nearby Brackley, will be chasing their first points of the season.

Reuters

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