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Schumacher trounces Alonso in popularity survey

Even if he fails to beat Alonso to the Formula One title, Schumacher remains in a world of his own when it comes to global popularity.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2006 17:09 IST

Even if he fails to beat Fernando Alonso to the Formula One title, Michael Schumacher remains in a world of his own when it comes to global popularity.

A global survey of F1 fans published on Tuesday revealed the Ferrari ace was four times more popular than his Renault rival.

The annual poll, conducted by independent research analysts TNS Sport for the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) and official technology partner AMD, was based on 91,000 responses from 180 countries.

It found Schumacher, the most successful driver in Formula One history with seven championships and 90 race wins, was also the most popular with 28 percent of the vote.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen, the Finnish 'Iceman' who will step into Schumacher's shoes at glamour team Ferrari when the 37-year-old German retires at the end of the season, was second with 17 percent.

Briton Jenson Button ranked third on eight percent with Alonso, the youngest champion in history and two points clear of Schumacher in the current standings with just three races remaining, collecting only seven percent in fourth place.

Perhaps worryingly for the sport, three of the seven most popular drivers will be absent next year -- with Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya ranking sixth and Canada's former champion Jacques Villeneuve seventh.

Montoya is already testing for his new NASCAR team in the United States after leaving McLaren, while Villeneuve has been replaced by Polish rookie Robert Kubica at BMW Sauber.

TOYOTA LAST

While Schumacher topped the list, his younger brother Ralf failed to register.

Ralf's big-spending Toyota team were also eclipsed, gathering just one percent of the vote for Formula One's most popular outfit and less than struggling Honda-powered newcomers Super Aguri.

Ferrari, winners of more titles than any other team and three points clear of Renault in the current constructors' standings, led that poll with 30 percent.

McLaren, with 21 percent, were the only other team to register double figures with Renault joint third with Williams on eight percent.

Among other findings, the survey showed that fans liked the reintroduction of tyre changes while 73 percent felt a new knockout qualifying format was an improvement.

There was overwhelming support for Formula One remaining an important showcase for technology but fans wanted more emphasis put on individual driver skill and more overtaking.

FIA President Max Mosley said the governing body had listened to the fans' opinions and was committed to working with teams and others involved in Formula One to make further improvements.

"We recognise their view that technology is important but that the right balance with driver skill must be achieved and that improving car design to encourage overtaking must be one of our priorities," he said.

"We are now working very closely with the teams and manufacturers to ensure that we encourage the introduction of new energy efficient technology which will not only help to improve the show but will also have a direct environmental relevance for the motoring public," added Mosley.