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Michael Schumacher looking for

Michael Schumacher looking for victory on Ferrari's home circuit

Canadian Press

Thursday, September 09, 2004

MONZA, Italy (AP) - Michael Schumacher, a seventh world title under his belt and a high-speed crash from last week all but forgotten, looks to celebrate his best season so far with a win on Ferrari's home circuit at Monza in Sunday's Italian Grand Prix (TV, 8 a.m. EDT).

"It's obviously great to achieve what we have achieved and be able to celebrate that with our big supporters, who have been there in all the difficult years and now live with us in the good years," Schumacher said Thursday, on the eve of practice sessions for the 15th race of the season.

The German star secured an unprecedented seventh world drivers' title - his fifth in a row with the dominant Ferrari team - by finishing second to Kimi Raikkonen in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 29.

Schumacher, who has won 12 out of 14 GPs so far this season, said he wouldn't hold himself back at Monza, considered the fastest F1 circuit.

"At Spa I was not very aggressive. I did nothing wrong, thinking of the championship ... we had a perfect season so far. At Monza we expect a tough challenge from McLaren and Renault, which were strong in tests here," Schumacher said.

During test runs at Monza last Thursday, Schumacher crashed at 300 km/h due to a rear left tire problem but escaped unhurt. Toyota's French driver Olivier Panis crashed with a tire problem the next day.

Schumacher said that the tire of his Ferrari blew following a puncture.

"The time Ferrari spent on safety paid off," said Schumacher, adding he did not suffer any physical or mental damage in the crash.

"I took Friday off and I was only worried about playing soccer on Sunday. One crash is too much and you don't want it, but it's part of the game.

He said he was not worried about tire problems in Sunday's race.

"I'm not more concerned than in any other GP," he said. However, he disclosed that FIA, the auto racing governing body, was looking into a streak of tire-related crashes at Spa that forced a three-time intervention by the safety car.

"We (drivers) have a continuing dialogue with FIA," Schumacher said.

Schumacher will try to close in on Brazilian Ayrton Senna's record of 65 pole positions in Saturday's qualifying and shoot for his fifth Italian Grand Prix victory. The German enters the weekend with 62 poles and a career record of 82 wins.

McLaren driver Raikkonen said Thursday that he hoped to beat Schumacher again.

"We are coming off a clear win at Spa, we are in high spirits. Ferraris were faster in tests here but I always go for victory," Raikkonen said.

Rubens Barrichello, Ferrari's No. 2 driver and a 2002 winner in Monza, will try to cement his second place in the championship standings with a good result at Monza.

The Brazilian has 88 points, 23 ahead of third-place Briton Jenson Button.

Button's controversial move from BAR to Williams for the 2005 championship will be decided in two or three weeks by the Formula One arbitration board, racing officials said in Monza.

© Copyright 2004 The Canadian Press
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