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Welcome break from fame and fortune

Indianapolis: Fame and fortune deserted Michael Schumacher this week as he relaxed before a high stakes US Grand Prix that could secure him a record sixth championship — and the German lapped it up.

The Ferrari driver, who hopes to be a familiar winner in Sunday’s penultimate race of the season, smiled on Thursday as he related how he had checked in unrecognised at his Indianapolis hotel.

Before that, he had enjoyed being just another face in the crowd in Las Vegas as the German took time out with his wife in the gamblers’ paradise.

Whatever risks Schumacher takes on Sunday, with the championship on a knife-edge and the German just three points clear of Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya and seven ahead of McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen, he is no gambler.

One of the wealthiest sportsmen in the world, with estimated annual earnings of around $50 million, Schumacher said he had steered clear of the high rollers.

But he had lost all the same.

“Gambling is not my strong thing, no” he told a news conference. “I did a bit but very little. I just went a bit for the slot machines, I’m a small gambler.”

Asked if he had won anything, Schumacher smiled and replied. “Yes, actually I did — experience.”

Schumacher, winner at Indianapolis in 2000 and runner-up for the last two races at the Motor Speedway, is a big fan of America where he can disappear into the crowds.

“I move very freely around,” he said when asked whether anyone in Las Vegas spotted him. “There are a few European guys who hang out there for a holiday that would recognise me but usually I’m not getting recognised by Americans.”

Sunday’s race, broadcast to a worldwide audience of millions, will be a return to a more familiar reality and Schumacher was ready for the challenge.

But he cautioned fans from reading too much into the past at a circuit where Ferrari have twice finished one-two in the three Formula One races held here.

“I don’t think what happens in the past relates very much to what will happen this year,” he said. “It’s a new start and we have to see what we can do.

“I think we have a good car, we have a good package. We have worked very intensely on every option last week. We feel we are very well prepared but at this stage less talking and more showing is better.”

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