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Schumi has the pulse to drive at home

Schumacher is riding a two-race winning run. A hat-trick at the German GP would see him further reduce Alonso's lead at the top of the F1 drivers' championship.
None | By Associated Press, Hockenheim
PUBLISHED ON JUL 27, 2006 09:49 PM IST

Fernando Alonso has the lead. Michael Schumacher has the momentum.

Schumacher is riding a two-race winning run. A hat-trick at the German Grand Prix on Sunday would see him further reduce defending champion Alonso's lead at the top of the Formula One drivers' championship.

After 11 of 18 races, the Spaniard has 96 points and Germany's Schumacher has 79. A win is worth 10 points.

"This race is a little bit of an extra motivation for every German driver," said Schumacher, a seven-time Formula One champion who has won three times at Hockenheim.

"Even when it's not obvious from lap times, the psychological effect is definitely there," Schumacher said. "We always get so much support from the fantastic fans at Hockenheim."

"It's no secret that we are going to go for the hat-trick. We've got our minds set on making the championship red," Schumacher said, referring to the color of his Ferrari.

Schumacher's straight wins in the US and France snapped Alonso's four-race streak. The Renault driver has won six races so far this season and has only one finish outside the top two. Schumacher has four wins.

No car apart from Renault or Ferrari has won a race this season, with one victory going to Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella. Schumacher has yet to announce whether he intends to return in 2007 or quit after this season and he will be extra keen to win what could be his final race at home.

"There is no reason to speak about my future," Schumacher said on Thursday, reiterating that he will make his decision known at Monza in September.

With a heat wave in Germany, Schumacher, Formula One's most successful driver with 88 career victories, may face track temperatures soaring above 50 Celsius (122 Fahrenheit). Heavy showers are also predicted for the weekend.

"For both sides it will be a matter of tires," Schumacher said of the conditions. "You may get it completely right or not." Alonso won at Hockenheim last year and appears untroubled by Schumacher's latest surge.

"I am feeling very optimistic. We had a strong first half of the season and the key thing now is to keep going and complete the job," Alonso said.

"The Renault team is ready and I am ready. I think we can finish 2006 the same way we started it."

Alonso opened the season with a victory and doesn't have to actually win another race to retain the title.

"I think we are developing the car in a good way," Alonso said. "We began the season with a fantastic one, so maybe that left us a little less room to improve than the others."

"But even if they are developing and trying to charge back, we continue to win races," Alonso said.

Winning at Hockenheim would be psychologically important, Alonso said.

"I try to win every race but winning this weekend would have a special significance," he said.

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