Alonso predicts Schumacher comeback

New world champion Fernando Alonso insisted here on Thursday that seven-time title winner Michael Schumacher can make a comeback next season despite his nightmare year in 2005.

Schumacher saw his five-year reign at the top of the sport dramatically concluded this season after his Ferrari team slumped behind Alonso’s Renault team and current championship runner-up Kimi Raikkonen’s McLaren outfit.

But Spaniard Alonso believes it is wrong to write of 84-race winner Schumacher in the future and said: “Michael is still Michael, he didn’t change compared to previous seasons.

“The Ferrari was not as strong any more and he didn’t get the opportunity to win many races but for sure next year will be again the favourite one to start the championship.”

Raikkonen, who shook hands with Alonso in front of photographers here on Thursday having lost the title battle to him at the last race in Brazil, was equally sceptical about declarations of Schumacher’s demise.

“I don’t think Michael has lost anything of his speed, I just think they [Ferrari] have had a difficult season this year, their package has not been as good as before, so people are just thinking that he is a bit slower,” he said.

“I don’t think that happens so quickly.”

Schumacher (36) is clearly heading towards the end of his career with 229 Grands Prix under his belt compared to Alonso (24) who has completed 66 and Raikkonen (25) who has done 84 races.

This year has been all about the battle between Alonso and Finn Raikkonen after Alonso took the early lead and never relinquished it thanks to his Renault car’s incredible reliability.

The two drivers will be now focussing on helping their teams in a battle to win the constructors’ title but both admitted their motivation is reduced now their own personal battle has come to an end.

“For the drivers the only important thing or the only thing that motivates you is the drivers’ championship,” said Alonso. “The constructors’ is good because you feel part of the team but it is not so important for you.

“It is true there is not the same motivation for the last two races but in my case I will enjoy these two because I have no pressure or anything to do specially. I will do my best, go as quickly as I can and this is what I like.”

Raikkonen, who like Alonso has won six races so far this season, added: “For me it is the same, I am happy it is only two races to go and I will try to do the best for the team in those races.”

Raikkonen’s McLaren team are the ones to beat ahead of this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix and he will be trying to forget his championship disappointment and focus on beating Colombian team-mate Juan Pablo Montoya to victory.

This is the second time in three years that he has lost out on the title, the first coming in 2003 when he was narrowly beaten by Schumacher in the final race of the season here in Japan.

And Raikkonen said: “I think the first one was closer so it was more painful.
This year we saw quite a long time ago that it would be very difficult to catch them.

“We saw that they are very reliable and even though we kept winning they kept finishing behind us so unfortunately it wasn’t such a big thing though, but of course we would rather win it than lose it.”

He is confident he can fight back in his battle within the team, however, and added: “Some days Juan Pablo is quicker than me, other days I am quicker than him. There are two races to go, we will see who is going to be quicker.” - AFP

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