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Schumi looks for 2nd straight win

Michael Schumacher has had his ups and downs this season as he tries to regain the form that made him a seven-time F1 champion.

india Updated: May 04, 2006 18:50 IST

Michael Schumacher has had his ups and downs this season as he tries to regain the form that made him a seven-time F1 champion. Current champion Fernando Alonso has been very consistent.

The two face off again this weekend at the European Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring, one of Schumacher's favorite circuits.

The Ferrari driver started the season with a pole position and a second-place finish, and won in San Marino two weeks ago for his first victory in nearly 18 months. In between, he crashed out and had problems with engines and tires.

Alonso, meanwhile, has recorded two firsts and two seconds in four races for Renault.

"So far, I have had perfect reliability this season, and we are working hard to make sure that continues," he said. In San Marino, Alonso was right behind Schumacher for the last half of the race but couldn't find a way past him. Schumacher controlled the pace, sometimes easing off the accelerator as times dropped nearly three seconds a lap over the last stretch.

"I went there saying that second would be a good result for me, because Ferrari have always been strong in Imola," Alonso said.

"They were competitive, like we expected, but I think that in the race, the Renault was very close in performance and maybe even a bit quicker in race conditions."

Alonso isn't convinced that Ferrari will be a consistent challenger.

"So far, they have been strong at the same tracks as in 2005, and not so good at others," he said. "It is too early to say if it will be the same this year, so we can't write them off."

Alonso has a season-leading 36 points after four races. "This has been a dream start for me, because there is such a high level of competition in the field," he said. "I hope it will continue."

Schumacher, meanwhile, has 21 points and is looking to capitalize on the good showing at Imola.

"The win gave us that extra motivation," he said. Schumacher has won at Nuerburgring four times. He also won the European GP when it was held in Spain.

The drivers have practice Friday and Saturday morning, with qualifying Saturday afternoon. Sunday's race is 59 laps. Alonso's teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella, won the other race of the season. Renault holds a big lead in the constructors' standings over McLaren, 51-33.

The Ferraris and Renaults should be wary of the McLarens, which will be trying to impress engine supplier Mercedes, which has its home in nearby Stuttgart.

Kimi Raikkonen has had a competitive car throughout the first four races, although one race was spoiled when he was hit from behind on the opening lap. He has finished second, third and fifth in the three other races.

At last year's European GP, Raikkonen was leading comfortably when he skidded out of the race on the final lap after a tire failure. Alonso got the win.

"I am hoping to have a less dramatic race this year," Raikkonen said.

Yuji Ide, the rookie driver for the Super Aguri team, has been dropped for this week's race.

The sport's governing body, FIA, asked the team to send Ide back to the testing track to gain more experience after a series of mishaps and slow laps.

France's Franck Montagny will move up from the test driver slot to make his F1 debut.