Ferrari has begun its climb back into real championship contention, according to a growing consensus in F1 circles.
In La Gazzetta dello Sport, triple world champion Niki Lauda contrasted Ferrari’s ‘positive trend’ with the fact that Renault is ‘undoubtedly going backwards’ after the French GP at Magny Cours.
In addition, forty per cent of the Italian sport newspaper’s readers voted that they thought 37-year-old Michael Schumacher could pip Fernando Alonso to the 2006 title.
A couple of rival observers, meanwhile, also agree that Schumacher’s French victory puts him back on course for overall glory.
”If he continues like that,” BMW’s Mario Theissen told RTL, ”then (the battle) will be close.”
Mercedes’ Norbert Haug remarked that it is ‘good for the sport’ that the championship fight is ‘open once again’, while a Hockenheim spokesman admitted that Schumacher’s resurgence is ‘worth gold’ in terms of filling grandstands for the upcoming German grand prix.
Red-clad boss Jean Todt, meanwhile, insisted to Italy’s ANSA agency that Ferrari will not be content to settle for either the drivers’ or the constructors’ crowns.
Insisting that his team wants both titles, the Frenchman added: ”The only thing we’ll settle for is Felipe Massa not getting second place (in the drivers’ championship).”
The fact remains, however, that Alonso can finish merely second in the remaining seven races of 2006 and still emerge as world champion.