Schumacher Wins Formula One Title

Monday, October 9th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) — Michael Schumacher knows racing history, and he knows what this latest title means.

He won the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday, giving him a Formula One championship to go with those he won in 1994 and 1995.

``Here at Ferrari we have been working for five years, getting very close three times and not making it three times,'' the German driver said. ``That obviously adds certain emotions. Therefore it is not comparable to any of them. It is simply outstanding.''

Schumacher won his first two titles driving for Benetton. It had been 21 years since a Ferrari driver won a championship.

``Sorry to say this, but also the history of Benetton is not as great as the history of Ferrari,'' he said. ``Therefore it has much more meaning to me.''

Schumacher passed two-time defending champion Mika Hakkinen on the 41st of 53 laps, making the decisive move after the second pit stop.

The Ferrari driver is 12 points ahead of Hakkinen, who won the title the last two years for McLaren.

Hakkinen finished second at Suzuka by 1.8 seconds after leading most of the first 37 laps. He then pitted to give up the lead to Schumacher.

Schumacher continued on for three more laps, building his advantage. After pitting at the end of 40 laps, he came out ahead of Hakkinen and went on to victory.

Hakkinen was among the first to congratulate Schumacher as he came out of the car in the pit lane enclosure. He hugged his rival warmly and even gave a thumbs-up sign to the Ferrari crew.

``To be a good winner, sometimes you have to be a good loser, too,'' Hakkinen said. ``Life continues, and racing continues. We have to keep fighting and I am sure we will see exciting racing in the future, too.''

Once trailing Schumacher by 24 points in the middle of June, Hakkinen later led by six points before Schumacher won the United States Grand Prix two weeks ago.

With three championships, Schumacher joins five other drivers on the Formula One career list. Juan-Manuel Fangio of Argentina holds the all-time lead with five, followed by Alain Prost of France with four.

Schumacher remembered the point after the second pit stop when he knew he had the race won.

Hakkinen probably realized it, too.

``I knew it was going to be very very tough to catch up. I was sliding all over the place,'' he said. ``On the final lap, Michael slowed down and I went over the limit and couldn't catch him.''

Schumacher has 43 victories in Formula One since joining the series in 1991.