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Newz Forum: AUTO: Schumacher back on top of podium in dominating fashion

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posted on Oct, 10 2004 @ 02:21 PM
SUZUKA, Japan -- Michael Schumacher asserted his authority in Formula One again Sunday with his 13th victory of the season but first since August.

The seven-time world champion captured the Japanese Grand Prix, which was run in sunshine after days of rain and a typhoon threat.

Schumacher won 12 of the first 13 races before losing three straight. In his previous race, he finished 12th at the Chinese Grand Prix, his worst finish since 1999.

"I didn't think too much about what happened at the last Grand Prix. I don't really take that into account, questioning anything," the German said. "There wasn't really the extra pressure."

Schumacher, with 83 career victories, clinched the drivers' title by finishing second at the Belgian GP behind Kimi Raikkonen and had gone winless since the Hungarian Grand Prix.

This was Schumacher's sixth victory at the Japanese GP. Ferrari has won this race every year since 1999 -- Eddie Irvine (1999), Schumacher (2000-02 and 2004) and Rubens Barrichello 2003.

"Coming here to Suzuka, which is a circuit I like very much, it's just nice and great," said Schumacher, who also won for Ferrari in 1997 and Benetton in 1995.

He was 14 seconds ahead of brother Ralf, who finished the 53 laps on the 3.6-mile circuit in second place in a Williams-BMW.

"I had Ralf in my mirrors for quite a while," Michael said.

BAR-Honda had Jenson Button and Takuma Sato in third and fourth to nearly clinch second in the team standings. Fernando Alonso of Renault was fifth.

Schumacher spun in the last two races, each won by Barrichello. The Brazilian's victories gave Ferrari 14 wins in 16 races -- the only losses to Raikkonen and Jarno Trulli.

Barrichello had a mishap during qualifying that left him 15th, but he moved up to sixth before he tangled with David Coulthard on the 39th lap. That knocked both out of the race.

On the opening laps, both Schumachers pulled away. At the end of the first six laps, Michael led Ralf by three seconds. After the first round of pits stops, Michael increased his lead to 16.6 seconds at the end of lap 16. After the second round of pit stops were completed by the end of 40 laps, Michael Schumacher led his brother by more than 20 seconds.

"It was pretty clear which way it would go," Ralf said.

With only the Oct. 24 Brazilian GP left, the top three spots in the driver standings are set: Schumacher (146 points), Barrichello (108) and Button (85). BAR-Honda and Renault are vying for second in the team standings.

For the first time, Formula One qualifying was held a few hours before the race after a typhoon warning wiped out Saturday's schedule. The typhoon never hit Suzuka directly, but rain soaked the track Saturday and early Sunday.

"It is strange you go out Sunday morning without preparation into qualifying," Schumacher said. "Normally we have the whole weekend to sort things. It puts a lot of stress on the mechanics."

Trulli returned to Formula One with Toyota and came in 11th. He missed the last race after being dropped by Renault for several poor finishes, although he won in Monaco in May.

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