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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 April, 2003, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Schumacher proves steel
Jonathan Legard predicts a Juan Pablo Montoya victory in Brazil
Jonathan Legard
BBC motor racing correspondent

Schumacher raced despite the death of his mother
Schumacher raced despite the death of his mother
1 M Schumacher (Ferrari)
2 K Raikkonen (McLaren)
3 R Barrichello (Ferrari)

Winning the world championship will be the last thing on Michael Schumacher's mind this week.

He and his younger brother did at Imola what came naturally to them and what the job demanded. Emotion was checked by adrenalin while the race was there to be won.

It echoed Gerhard Berger's triumph in the 1997 German Grand Prix just days after his father was killed in a plane crash.

But while the world champion and his family gather in Germany to mourn their mother, the Ferrari family can say a silent prayer that their season is properly up and running.

"It was very important to win this first Grand Prix in Europe still with the 2002 car and it was important to give a good end to this unbelievable car," said Sporting Director, Jean Todt.

"It was better than just finishing in a normal position because its position is on the podium and that's where it finished today."

The 2003 San Marino Grand Prix marked the car's 15th victory in 19 races.

It is an astonishing record of achievement which explains why Ferrari are preparing the ground so carefully for the new car's debut at the next race in Spain.

Potential is no substitute for performance when expectation is so high.

Under the new points system, the champions cannot afford to lose more ground on Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren, now 14 points ahead of Michael Schumacher in the championship.

Ignore the headlines that Ferrari are back - they never went away

The new car needs to hit the track in the style that its predecessor signed off.

Hence the intensive testing at Mugello this week to maximise the chances of first-rate reliability when it matters in Barcelona.

"We are not far away from what we want to achieve in terms of reliability and we will be in a position to see exactly where we are at the end of the week," Todt revealed.

"We are quite confident that the car will be ready for the Spanish Grand Prix in two weeks."

That is not yet a ringing endorsement but the impetus that Schumacher's heroics at Imola have given the team is undeniable.

The longer a team goes without winning - whether it's Real Madrid, Manchester United or Ferrari - the more doubts can creep in.

Misfortune and mistakes can damage even a well-oiled machine.

Ferrari's claim that they had the fastest car over the first three races was being questioned in some quarters as results went against them.

Kimi Raikkonen tops the championship
Kimi Raikkonen still tops the championship

But the manner of Schumacher's pole position and his 65th F1 victory brooked no argument.

The first win of 2003, later than expected, could be the cue for another Ferrari goldrush.

But for a rickety pitstop, Rubens Barrichello could even have scored a 1-2 finish.

McLaren, however, shouldn't be overawed.

Kimi Raikkonen has finished first or second in each of the first four races. David Coulthard made up seven places to take fifth and stay second in the championship.

The car continues to hold its own with the promise of better to come with the much anticipated MP4/18A.

They are certainly in better shape than Williams who were compromised yet again by a failing fuel rig. Juan Pablo Montoya had to stop four times because of the problem.

Ignore the headlines that Ferrari are back - they never went away.

But they have reminded their rivals of their capabilities in the most telling manner.

And after three uncharacteristic slips, Michael Schumacher has reverted to type.

Victorious even in distress, the champion not only added to his Formula One record over the weekend. He grew as a competitor of remarkable stature.







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