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Atlas F1 News Service, a Reuters report

Schumacher Has Thoughts Only for Championship

Thursday June 29th, 2000

Michael Schumacher will be joint second with Ayrton Senna on the all-time list for most Grand Prix victories if he wins Sunday's French Grand Prix, but the German insists the title remains his priority.

The Ferrari driver, who secured his fifth win in eight races this season in Montreal two weeks ago, knows that a 41st career victory this weekend would strengthen his already vice-like grip on the championship.

The double world champion said: "Statistics don't bother me, they are something you look back on after you have retired. The championship is all that matters.

"We have been trying long and hard to win it and we are in a good position at the moment.

"The victory in Montreal was an important one, but it is not over until it is mathematically impossible to be overtaken, and there are still many races left for that."

Should he be victorious at Magny-Cours, Schumacher will have matched Senna in just 137 starts - 24 fewer than the legendary Brazilian, who died at Imola six years ago. Frenchman Alain Prost holds the record with 51 Grand Prix wins.

Schumacher is currently 22 points ahead of McLaren driver David Coulthard. The Scot suffered a major disappointment in Canada when he stalled his car before the formation lap but is confident of bouncing back in France.

"We tested at the track after the Canadian Grand Prix and went through a lot of work," said Coulthard. "I ended up fastest on both my days in the car so things are looking promising for the race."

Team mate Mika Hakkinen is two points behind Coulthard as the pair continue their battle to reduce Ferrari's lead in the constructors' championship.

Overtaking Opportunities

"This is a circuit I know very well and there are some good overtaking opportunities," Hakkinen said. "I'm feeling more confident with the team at the moment and the car is very competitive, so we must try to get some points back on Michael."

Italian Giancarlo Fisichella has taken Benetton into third place in the constructors' championship and the 27-year-old will be seeking to extend his record of finishing in every race this season.

But despite two consecutive podium finishes, team boss Flavio Briatore has insisted that it will be difficult for Fisichella to repeat the feat in France.

"We need a miracle to finish on the podium," said Briatore. "The circuit is hard to overtake on, so qualifying will be important."

Jordan will be hoping to repeat their performance of last year, when German Heinz-Harald Frentzen triumphed in a rain-hit race. The team used a one-stop strategy during the race with Frentzen claiming victory ahead of Hakkinen.

Frentzen said: "Magny-Cours isn't the most exciting circuit on the calendar but I feel we have a great chance of getting on the podium again."

Williams' rookie driver Jenson Button is still unsure of a place in the team next year and will be hoping to show team boss Frank Williams his capabilities on the track.

Unlike many of the circuits in his debut year in Formula One, Button has previous experience at Magny-Cours, having raced there while driving in Formula Three.

Button said: "We've worked very hard in testing to find an effective race set-up. I'm hoping to show what I can do because I want to stay with Williams."