Schumacher Wins 5th Title in France

Monday, July 22nd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MAGNY-COURS, France (AP) _ Michael Schumacher thinks there are still more championships to be won.

The most dominant Formula One driver in years captured the French Grand Prix on Sunday to clinch his fifth title. He and Argentina's Juan Manuel Fangio, who rode in the 1950s, share the record for most championships.

This was Schumacher's third consecutive title and sixth victory of the season. He won titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995 before moving to Ferrari.

After he crossed the line, Schumacher punched the air and wriggled his red car on the main straightaway, prompting celebrations in the Ferrari portion of pit row.

The 33-year-old German has been virtually unchallenged, and he sees no reason why this should stop.

``We are in such good shape team-wise, performance-wise, we can keep that sort of performance for quite a bit longer and keep having races like we have had today,'' he said.

``It is simply the pleasure of racing and trying to achieve as many good races as we can,'' he added. ``And ultimately you achieve, hopefully, a further championship.''

In his backup Ferrari, Schumacher passed Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren-Mercedes to take the lead when the Finnish driver's brakes locked on an oil patch in the 68th lap of the 72-lap race.

The German made the pass under a yellow flag, but McLaren-Mercedes did not challenge the move.

``The championship is the sort of target you would like to achieve, certainly,'' Schumacher said. ``And after we have achieved this, we can obviously now concentrate race by race and just enjoy it and do the best we can _ and that's hopefully getting in some more exciting races and maybe good positions.''

Britain's David Coulthard finished third at the French Grand Prix. After the race, while Schumacher was explaining how good it feels to rule Formula One, Coulthard interrupted him.

``If it feels so good,'' he said. ``Why don't you spread it around a little?''

Coulthard is one of only two non-Ferrari drivers to win an F1 race this year. The other is Schumacher's brother, Ralf Schumacher.

Coulthard and Raikkonen put on an impressive display for McLaren-Mercedes, taking two of the top three spots.

``I actually didn't expect us to be in the lead,'' said Coulthard, who led the race at one point. ``We're still a little bit behind (Ferrari), but it's encouraging for the future. It was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon from where I was sitting.''

Raikkonen, however, appeared distraught after the race.

``I haven't had much good luck this year,'' he said. ``Of course, it was my mistake,'' he added, referring to the skid that cost him the lead.

The car belonging to Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, never got off the starting grid. Schumacher then wound up battling with the two McLaren-Mercedes cars. Raikkonen finished second, 1.105 seconds behind, and Coulthard was third, 31.976 seconds back.

With Barrichello out, Schumacher sealed the title when BMW-Williams driver Juan Montoya of Colombia finished fourth. Montoya started in the pole position but never recovered from a long 11.6-second pit stop after the 43rd lap.

Schumacher has 96 points in the standings and Montoya has 34, leaving the German with an unbeatable lead.