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Secret of their success: Ferrari or Schumacher?
Jul. 24, 2002. 11:17 AM

MAGNY-COURS, France (AP) — After clinching a record-tying fifth Formula One drivers' championship, Michael Schumacher is now certainly the most accomplished driver of his generation, if not all time.

But in an era in which the top teams win nearly every race, what's behind Schumacher's dominance? Is it the man or his first-class Ferrari machine?

The question was brought up after Schumacher's victory in last Sunday's French Grand Prix sealed the championship in record time, with six races still remaining on the schedule.

It was Schumacher's eighth win this year, and the 61st of his career. He now has more than five times as many career wins as any other driver currently competing. McLaren-Mercedes' David Coulthard is next on the list with 12 career first-place finishes.

Despite the German driver's impressive statistics, one of his main competitors insists that all the top drivers could achieve what Schumacher has if they were behind the wheel of his Ferrari.

"Surely Schumacher is a good driver," said BMW Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya. "But driving the machine that he has, anyone could win.

"There's nothing we can do against Ferrari to beat them right now."

Actually, Montoya is one of the few men who has been able to challenge Ferrari and Schumacher this season. The Colombian driver captured his fifth-straight and sixth-overall pole position of the year for last Sunday's race.

And while Montoya has not won a race all season, his impressive qualifying times contrast with his recent statements. Qualifying is often the best test of a car's technology and speed, while the race itself is a better measurement of a driver's ability.

If Montoya is so good in qualifying, then his car is seemingly just as fast as Schumacher's. The difference is in the way they race.

"Montoya has a point, but not every driver could do as well so often like Schumi has done with his Ferrari," Coulthard said. "By now that car is part of Michael."

Even the technical director for Montoya's team, Patrick Head, has been singing praise for Schumacher.

"He's a complete driver with great experience," Head said. "He doesn't have any weak points, in the race or on the track. And he gets better as the years pass."

After capturing his first two drivers' titles with the Benetton team in 1994 and '95, Schumacher moved to Ferrari after the 1995 season and developed into the premier driver he is today.

At 33, Schumacher has won the drivers' title three straight years for Ferrari. And his most recent title has been his most impressive. In the 11 races run so far this season, Schumacher has finished on the podium each time. He has eight wins, two second-places and one third-place finish.

"I would say to Montoya to jump in the F2002 and try and do the same," said Giancarlo Minardi, founder of the Minardi Formula One team, referring to Schumacher's latest Ferrari model.

"The car is without a doubt extraordinary, but the driver is an artist."

Perhaps the strongest argument against Montoya's sentiments involves Schumacher's teammate at Ferrari, Rubens Barrichello.

The 30-year-old Brazilian drives the same model Ferrari as Schumacher, with the same supporting team, and he still has only one victory this year.

To be fair, Barrichello did have one win taken away from him when he was asked to pull aside while leading the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix so Schumacher could finish first. And in the last two races, he's suffered serious technical problems in the starting grid.

Still, he believes Schumacher merits praise.

"He's a real champion and he deserves all this," Barrichello said while celebrating his teammate's latest accomplishment.

what do you all think???
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