Thursday August 10th, 2000
World championship leader Michael Schumacher has set his target for the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday after failing to finish in four of the last five races.
"My number one priority in Hungary is to get through the first lap without a problem and to finish the race in the points," the German double world champion said.
Schumacher has seen his once commanding lead of 22 points in the drivers' title race cut to just two by a series of mishaps and misfortunes in recent races.
Ferrari driver Schumacher has 56 points, two ahead of the McLaren pair, David Coulthard of Briton and Mika Hakkinen of Finland, and 10 more than Brazil team mate Rubens Barrichello, who claimed a stirring maiden victory at the German race at Hockenheim two weeks ago.
Schumacher believes he can end his barren run and claim enough points to stay in the thick of the title fight, which he is convinced he will win this season.
He said: "Thanks to Rubens' great win at Hockenheim, I am still leading the championship, though now by only two points.
"I am confident we will have a competitive car in Hungary, I just need some better luck to go with it."
Schumacher has been preparing for the more technical and slower Hungaroring circuit at Ferrari's Fiorano test track last week, while most of his rivals tested at the new Valencia circuit.
The higher temperatures in Spain were more like those expected in Hungary. There is no testing at the Hungaroring itself.
Schumacher has won twice before at the Hungaroring, in 1994 and 1998, but expects it to be a very difficult race. For him, however, the priority is to avoid the first-lap accidents which removed him from the fray in Austria and Germany.
"It's a track which can be great fun to drive on when you are at the front of the pack but really frustrating when you are trying to pass another car with similar performance," he explained. "The race is a tricky one.
"The track surface does not have a great deal of grip and that means a well-balanced car is really essential. Also, the grip improves dramatically on the racing line as the rubber goes down throughout the weekend.
"That makes overtaking more tricky because any manoeuvre off line means there is very little grip and it is easy to spin or to slide off the road."
The Hungaroring's layout adds to the difficulties for overtaking as it provides few passing opportunities other than the braking zone at the end of the straight going into the fast right-hander.
"Hungary is the sort of track where the unexpected can often happen," said Barrichello. "That is especially true when it comes to the tactics -- and that is something that the Ferrari team do incredibly well."
Ferrari will be protecting a narrow advantage in the constructors' championship in which they lead with 102 points to McLaren's 98.
"I like Hungary as it is probably the closest I get to a home race because there are always a vast number of Finnish fans with flags and banners," said Hakkinen, who is seeking to emulate Argentine Juan-Manuel Fangio's achievement of winning three successive titles.
The front runners could be chased by some unexpectedly competitive rivals, with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve hoping his British American Racing (BAR) Honda can qualify in the top eight and give him a "small chance" of a podium finish.
Frenchman Jean Alesi will have a fitness test after his high-speed crash at Hockenheim, while both Coulthard and Benetton driver Alexander Wurz of Austria have been passed fit after accidents in testing.