| Michael Schumacher during a charity match for the Twin Towers Relief Funds in Milan Wednesday. (AP/PTI)
Monza: Michael Schumacher has found this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix more emotional than others and not just because of the red-clad Ferrari fans.
With outside influences affecting the race the last two years, he has cried in interviews afterwards and almost did not compete last year.
Yet he returns in celebration after clinching titles for himself and Ferrari and setting records along the way.
Two years ago he wept in the post-race interview after a track worker was killed by flying debris following a crash.
Last year Schumacher was in the midst of the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the US and a horrible crash where Alex Zanardi lost both his legs in a cart race in Germany the same weekend.
He said in a television interview that he almost withdrew from last year’s Italian race. “I certainly thought about it. It was a key period in my life with the attack on the twin towers and the dramatic injury to Alex Zanardi,” he said.
“It was difficult to get back in the car and drive again as if nothing had happened. I didn’t feel like it and I would have rather been anywhere else than driving.”
It was no surprise that the unmotivated Schumacher took fourth, the last time he has been off the podium. Since then he has been dominant, taking a record 10 out of 14 races this year and is on the verge of another record.
Entering the race with 122, he is just one point shy of a record for modern times. Although scoring systems have changed throughout the years, it would be hard to top his 10 victories, three seconds and a third as he won his fifth world title in July.
He and teammate Rubens Barrichello have gone 1-2 in seven of the 14 races, including the last one in Belgium, which tightened Barrichello’s grip on second in the standings. He now has a seven-point margin over Williams’ Juan Pablo Montoya.
However Schumacher knows it will not be so easy this time.
“It would be presumptuous to count on another Ferrari one-two, although we can promise our fans we will do our very best,” he said. “It is going to be tougher than in Belgium. Our testing went well and we got through in performance terms,” Schumacher said.
“I reckon the BMW-Williams and the McLaren-Mercedes will be quite strong at Monza.”
Montoya won at Monza last year but thinks he will have little chance to overtake the Ferraris.
“At Monza, we probably have one of our best chances to do well, but I think it’s going to prove hard to beat Ferrari,” said the Colombian. We should be strong as our engine is powerful, which is a decisive factor here, but still we must be realistic.”
Meanwhile the Arrows saga continues. Arrows have been surviving on a race-by-race basis and missed the Belgian and Hungarian Grands Prix outright.
Malaysia’s Alex Yoong is back in the Minardi car after being replaced by Anthony Davidson for two races.