Thursday August 23rd, 2001
By Alan Baldwin
In David Coulthard's dreams, Michael Schumacher would now settle back and enjoy a well-deserved holiday. But the McLaren driver's tongue-in-cheek recommendation, after Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix ended his title hopes and handed Schumacher his fourth Championship, was never going to be seriously considered.
It may seem to some, with both the Drivers' and Constructors' crowns wrapped up and delivered to Ferrari's Maranello headquarters with four races to spare, that the Grand Prix season has run out of steam.
Jaguar's Eddie Irvine rebuts that notion. "I don't think the spectators count the points," says the Ulsterman. "The spectators want to see a race and I don't think the points turn them on at the end of the day. They don't sit there waiting to fill in their points score at the end of the race. It's ideal if it (the Championship) goes down to the wire but I don't think that's important. I think every race is its own event."
Indeed, even if Formula One's main prizes have been handed out, there is still plenty to look forward to.
First of all, there is the question of Schumacher's record-breaking 52nd win to address now that the German has finally equalled Alain Prost's tally of 51. That could come at Spa in Belgium, Schumacher's favourite high-speed circuit which is next up on September 2 and where he made his debut in 1991.
If not Spa, then Monza - a temple to all things Ferrari - would be a perfect venue to break records. But Monza is more likely to favour the Williams team of younger brother Ralf, winner of three races this year and still hoping to finish runner-up overall.
In fact, all the remaining races should see BMW-powered Williams figure strongly - offering the enticing prospect of a possible first career win also for exciting Colombian rookie Juan Pablo Montoya. Indianapolis, where 1999 CART champion Montoya won the Indy 500 as a rookie last year, would be a race to remember if the Colombian triumphed there late next month.
Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, who moved over for teammate Schumacher in Austria this year, may get his reward if the German helps him to second place overall. "I am pretty sure I can do something for him," said Schumacher on Thursday. "The question is if he needs it or not."
Other teams will be eyeing the Constructors' standings primarily, with Williams and McLaren still fighting for the runner-up slot. And there should be some exciting racing. While titles matter, Formula One fans will still queue up to see their heroes and experience the sights and sounds close up.
Published at 15:30:46 GMT