Brazilian GP preview, facts

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Friday, March 30, 2001 - A victory in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix would extend Michael Schumacher's win streak to seven. The streak started with Schumacher's win in last year's Italian Grand Prix. If it continues, he will...

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Friday, March 30, 2001 - A victory in Sunday's Brazilian Grand Prix would extend Michael Schumacher's win streak to seven. The streak started with Schumacher's win in last year's Italian Grand Prix. If it continues, he will close in on the record set by Alberto Ascari, who won nine consecutive races over the 1952 and 1953 World Championship seasons. With six consecutive wins, Schumacher is second in the record books. Three drivers are tied for third place in the record books with five consecutive wins each: Jack Brabham, with five straight wins in 1960; Jim Clark, with five straight wins in 1965; and Nigel Mansell, with five straight wins in 1992.

But Schumacher knows that his streak must end sooner or later. "I am lucky for the moment," he said, "but one moment my luck will stop, as well."

Besides luck, he also says that Ferrari has the best car at the moment. "We are working very hard, and without doubt we have the best car in the pit," he said. "We have the best engine or very close to the best engine. All in all, we have the best package. Rubens (Barrichello) and myself do a decent job, as well."

Schumacher has another streak going, as well. In the nine times he has raced in the Brazilian Grand Prix, Schumacher always has finished in the top six, and he has won here in 1994, 1995 and 2000.

Still, Schumacher does not believe that Ferrari has a big advantage over the other top Formula One teams. "Let's wait for this weekend and see what really happens," he said. Mika Hakkinen and the rest of the West McLaren-Mercedes team hope to end Schumacher's win streak.

"We always enter a race weekend with the intention of winning," Hakkinen said, "and this is the key target for Brazil. The West McLaren-Mercedes team and myself are working as hard as possible to secure the desired result."

The Brazilian Grand Prix takes place at the Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace, and the circuit is also called Interlagos as it is in the Sao Paulo suburb of Interlagos. The 2.677-mile, 4.309-km circuit is one of the most physically demanding tracks on the schedule. Not only is it bumpy, but it also runs in an anti-clockwise direction while most F1 tracks run in a clockwise direction. This puts extra strain on the drivers' necks. "You have a lot of left hand corners with high G force here," M. Schumacher said, "and that is a particular thing which you have to prepare for with a lot of exercise."

Rain could very well play a part in the outcome of the Brazilian Grand Prix. It has rained virtually every afternoon in the days leading up to the weekend.

Where to watch: Qualifying will be shown live at 11 a.m. (EST) March 31 on Speedvision. The race will be telecast live at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) April 1

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Hometown hero: If a Ferrari wins Sunday, there is no doubt whom the Brazilian fans would prefer to be behind the wheel of that winning car - Brazil's Rubens Barrichello.

"This will be my ninth Brazilian Grand Prix," Barrichello said, "and I will be looking forward to it more than ever. The Interlagos circuit is special to me, as I was brought up just a stone's throw away. It's a demanding circuit. It's hard to set the car up because of the bumpy surface and physically demanding because it is left-handed track. "I am looking forward to plenty of support from my home crowd, who will also have three other Brazilians to cheer for. For the first time in many years, four Brazilians will start the race."

The other Brazilians in the lineup are Enrique Bernoldi, who drives for Orange Arrows-Asiatech; Luciano Burti, who drives for Jaguar-Cosworth; and Tarso Marques, who drives for Minardi-European.

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Schumacher's future: Michael Schumacher, whose contract with Ferrari expires at the close of the 2002 season, said he does not want to worry about future driving contracts until the end of this season. "I don't really want to get into any discussion, either with Ferrari or anyone else before the end of the season," he said, "because I really want to concentrate on the job I'm doing, and that's it."

He also denied stories that he has been contacted by Toyota to drive for its new F1 team.

"You always have stories like this," he said. "There is a new team coming, and then automatically several drivers get mentioned who may be in contact with the new team.

"It is possible that they may have approached (my manager) Willi (Weber), but I am not aware of this. I told Willi I don't want to get involved in anything. Do what you have to do, but we don't negotiate until a certain point, and don't approach me with any message you get."

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Montoya close to home: The Brazilian Grand Prix gave Juan Pablo Montoya a chance to go home to Colombia on his way to this race. 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner Montoya is expecting plenty of Colombian fans to be in Brazil to cheer him on.

"The Brazilian GP should be a positive race weekend," he said, "as Interlagos should be a good track for us. But theoretically Malaysia wasn't supposed to be a good track for us, and we were pretty quick so, you can never tell.

"I've never been to Interlagos, but I have fond memories of Brazil because I 've raced in Rio de Janeiro with the Champ Cars, and I won there. It should be pretty exciting, as this is the closest race to my country. I expect to be lots of Colombian fans there, and this will be a really great sensation."

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Let it rain: Jos Verstappen, who ran in the top six and eventually finished seventh in the rain-soaked Malaysian Grand Prix, wouldn't mind it rains in the Brazilian Grand Prix.

"Our car last year and this year seems to work well in the rain, but it is not as good as it should be in the dry," he said of his Orange Arrows-Asiatech. "I am still very motivated after Malaysia, which was great, and last year's race here was quite good, too."

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Charity match: Michael Schumacher and Jarno Trulli joined a group of Brazilian soccer stars, including Ronaldo and Zico (one of the best Brazilian soccer players of the 1980s), for a game to raise money for children's charities March 28. They played in Sao Paulo's Maracana stadium, the largest soccer stadium in the world. "The score was 10 to 9, and thanks to Ronaldo (who scored five goals) we won it," said Schumacher, who played the full 90 minutes and scored a goal on a penalty shot. "It was great fun."

-IMS

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Ferrari , Mercedes , McLaren , Minardi