All eyes will be on a Finn and a Spaniard at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on Sunday as the title battle between Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso looks to put local hero Michael Schumacher in the shade.
Fernando Alonso hopes to stay ahead of his rivals at Hockenheim
It is a reflection of his current inauspicious Formula One campaign that World Champion Michael Schumacher is only featuring in reports on this weekend's German Grand Prix at Hockenheim dues to his nationality.
The home grown champion equaled his own record of 11 wins in a season at last year's race but this year he will be hoping to just get on the podium at the end. Schumi lies in third place some 34 points off the top spot and has a lot to do if he is to record his 85th career win.
Ferrari's poor season to date is unlikely to get better with hopes dwindling that the 36-year-old will add to his sole victory of the season although the seven-time world champion characteristically refuses to rule it out.
Schumi and Ferrari still in the fight
"Contrary to many other people's opinions, we have in no means written ourselves off, even though we have to admit that the situation has worsened recently, rather than improved," said the German, referring to the problems with this season's car. "But that doesn't mean that it can't be improved again, and that's exactly what we're working on."
The limelight is falling on two young pretenders to Schumacher's throne as Sunday's race approaches. The battle between McLaren's flying Finn Kimi Raikkonen and championship leader Renault's speedy Spaniard Fernando Alonso is diverting eyes from the world record holding German on his own turf.
Kimi aims to keep heat on leader Alonso
Raikkonen must finish the German Grand Prix for the first time in five attempts to close the gap on Alonso if he is to keep his own championship hopes alive. The Finn retired from last year's race because of a rear wing failure and this season has been plagued by technical problems which most recently cost him 10 places on the starting grid in each of the last two rounds.
Despite those penalties for engine failure, the 25-year-old managed to finish second and third but he will have to increase his total of three race wins if he is to make a significant impression on the 26-point chasm that separates him from Alonso. "The battle for the championship is still on and I am determined to get a good result and work on closing the gap," said the Finn. "The (car) has good speed and we need to make the most of it this weekend."
Montoya doing McLaren team mate no favors
Juan Pablo Montoya
Raikkonen's car is obviously a fast one this season but he's not the only driver in a McLaren hot seat. Colombia's Juan Pablo Montoya is not to going to make way for his team mate while his own hopes of the title, however small, remain alive. "I am really looking forward to racing again this weekend in Germany," said Montoya, who won at Hockenheim for Williams two years ago and got his first victory for McLaren in Britain two weeks ago.
"I enjoy racing at Hockenheim, I have performed well here and won in the past and I am aiming for a strong result like at Silverstone."
Consistent Ferdy the man to beat at Hockenheim
Spanish Formula 1 driver of the Renault F1Team, Fernando Alonso gestures after he won the Hungarian Grand Prix on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2003 in Budapest, Hungary. The Spanish driver won the qualification yesterday and started today's race from the first pole position. (AP Photo: Bela Szandelszky)
Championship leader Alonso, meanwhile, has been impressively consistent for Renault so far this season, winning five times and failing to score points only at the Canadian Grand Prix, where he crashed, and in Indianapolis.
The Spaniard is setting the pace and the standard this season so, problems aside, Alonso will again be the man to beat at Hockenheim.