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Author Topic: Unloved Shumacher puts his foot down  (Read 1139 times)


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Unloved Shumacher puts his foot down
« on: July 29, 2006, 10:35:48 PM »
Article: By Kevin Garside
Michael Schumacher learned this week that his brother, Ralf, does not love him. Worse than that, he never really did. The dreadful truth was delivered in Bunte, a celebrity magazine that gave Ralf the Hello treatment in the build-up to tomorrow's German Grand Prix.
The story was subsequently picked up by Bild, the nation's biggest selling newspaper, and turned into a classic celebrity sting on the eve of a global event.
The feeling must be mutual. Schumacher responded with a lap half a second quicker than any of those who line up alongside him tomorrow. The idea that he would miss a beat as a result of anything Ralf might say had legs for precisely 1min 16.5sec, the time it took the most ruthless finisher in Formula One to record his rapid lap.

This is the driver who, at Imola in 2003, put his car on pole after learning that his terminally ill mother had taken a turn for the worse in hospital. Within hours of her passing the very next day, Schumacher blitzed the field to win the San Marino Grand Prix. This is what Ralf has been up against all his life; a brother who puts himself first.

Schumacher's infatuation with number one could have similar consequences for Fernando Alonso as the Spaniard struggles to resist the head of steam propelling Schumacher back into the championship picture. A win tomorrow would bring up the hat-trick, cut Alonso's 17-point lead further and seriously disturb sleep in the Renault camp.

The influence of team-mates and tyres has been debated all weekend. Perhaps more important is temperament, how the protagonists handle the heat. The indicators suggest that Schumacher has met his match in Alonso. The stereotypical positioning of hot Latin diametrically opposed to cool Saxon has nil application in Alonso's case.

The boy is cooler than Steve McQueen in Bullitt. He could not care less that a critical round of the world championship takes place on Schumacher's patch, nor that Ferrari are coming off successive wins. "They were confident after winning at Imola and the Nurburgring," Alonso said. "Then I won four consecutive races. Confidence in F1 is not important. The important thing is how the car works at every grand prix. In Canada we won easily. A week later in America, with the same car we were a second off Ferrari.

"We have to be precise with the tyre selection for every grand prix and don't make any mistakes. A win here is important, not because it's Michael's home grand prix, but because it would stop Michael's run. That would be better for us."

It does not get more clinical than that. In contrast to the position held by brother Ralf, neutrals are investing heavily in the greater Schumacher at Hockenheim. By virtue of his excellence, Alonso has been cast as the villain. Having usurped Schumacher as top dog, he has inadvertently cast him as underdog, arguably one of the greatest inversions in sport. What price Schumacher to make off with the bone?

Not if Alonso can help it. He has done the maths. He can finish second from here on in and still come first when it matters. "I prefer to win as many races as I can and have the championship as soon as possible," he said. "I like the fighting, but winning is more fun. Last year was tougher. With seven races to go the McLaren was a second quicker than us. It was impossible to beat them unless they had mechanical problems. This year we're fighting with Ferrari. It's much more equal. Depending on the tyres, they get the points or we do."

The Stig


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