| Michael Schumacher during the ‘Game of Hearts’, a celebrity match in Mannheim on Wednesday. The match takes place prior to the German GP and the profits are donated to UNESCO. (AFP)
Hockenheim: World champion Michael Schumacher admitted on Thursday that he and his Ferrari team are not confident of victory in this weekend’s German Grand Prix.
Michael is determined to prove his doubters wrong on home soil at Hockenheim on Sunday after failing to shine in the British GP and seeing his championship lead over Kimi Raikkonen reduced to seven points. Michael finished fourth for Ferrari at Silverstone, losing a vital point to McLaren-Mercedes’ Raikkonen, and had to watch his teammate Rubens Barrichello lift the winners’ trophy.
The five-time champion is determined to win the German Grand Prix for his home fans this weekend but admitted: “Many people believe that Hockenheim will not be suitable for the Ferrari. Last year I was very confident about my chances in the race, which is not all the common at Hockenheim, and it was one of the highlights of the season.
“I can’t wait to return to Germany, but this year the race definitely looks a much tougher prospect than last season and everyone at Ferrari is aware of that. It is not an impossible task and, recently, we have made significant progress, so we feel well prepared. But we can expect a very tough race.”
Michael and Ferrari can expect Williams-BMW — and their two drivers Ralf Schumacher and Juan Pablo Montoya — to fight hard for victory. The Williams pair have collected 73 points from a possible 90 in the last five races, with Montoya winning in Monaco, and Ralf Schumacher taking the European and French Grand Prix.
But another strong performance from Williams, ironically, could be exactly what Michael needs to boost his championship chances. McLaren, with their new car now delayed by teething problems and a current testing ban for at least the next three races, have seen Raikkonen’s hopes of taking the title diminishing.
Realistically, he needs Michael to fail to finish in the points in his home race — which he has only done three times in 10 appearances here — if he is to strengthen his championship chances with just five races to go. While Michael looks over his shoulder at Raikkonen, however, his Ferrari team have to keep an eye on Williams, who are just 10 points behind in the race for the constructors’ championship.
The junior Schumacher Ralf, fourth in the drivers’ standings, has counted out his hopes of fighting his brother for the championship this year but is concentrating on helping Williams pip Ferrari to the constructors’ title. “The drivers’ championship is far from my thoughts,” said Schumacher. “Hockenheim is my home Grand Prix so I am concentrating on that. And hopefully I can secure another win.”
Further down the grid, Jaguar will be boosted in their hopes of overtaking BAR-Honda for fifth place in the table by the arrival of Justin Wilson from Minardi. The British driver, who made his debut at the start of the season, has replaced Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia for the remainder of this season.
But Jaguar managing director David Pitchforth is not expecting Wilson to immediately match teammate Mark Webber and said: “Hockenheim will be like winter testing for Justin and Hungary is likely to be more of the same. Monza is really going to be his first ‘real’ race because a new team, a new car and new tracks are a difficult combination to balance. But Justin has a lot of experience behind him and we can only ask him to do his best.”