Schumacher wins French GP

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Michael Schumacher won the French Grand Prix on Sunday for a record eighth time.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:35 IST
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Magny Cours, France:

Michael Schumacher won the French Grand Prix on Sunday for a record eighth time. The win helps Schumacher close the gap on Alonso in the drivers' standings. Alonso now has 96 points and Schumacher 79. "We clearly have made up ground and it is far from being over," Schumacher said. It was Schumacher's 88th career victory. The seven-time world champion became the first Formula One driver to win the same race eight times, and his win was another boost for a resurgent Ferrari. At the United States GP two weeks ago, Schumacher led a 1-2 finish for his team. In Sunday's race, Schumacher finished 10 seconds ahead of world champion Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa, Schumacher's Ferrari teammate, was third. Toyota's Ralf Schumacher was fourth - 27.2 seconds behind his brother - and McLaren-Mercedes' Kimi Raikkonen came fifth in the 70-lap race. Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was sixth, followed by Pedro de la Rosa of Spain, McLaren-Mercedes's replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya, who has left for NASCAR. The other seven 2006 races have gone to Renault - six to Alonso and the other to Giancarlo Fisichella. With seven races left Schumacher is still optimistic. "We have to look forward and hope in the coming races," Schumacher said. Comfortable lead Alonso returned to form. Alonso's fifth place at Indianapolis was his lowest finish of the season and the first time he has been off the podium since finishing 11th at the Hungarian GP in July 2005. Still, the Spaniard has a comfortable lead over Schumacher in the drivers' standings. At the start Schumacher got away cleanly while Massa did his best to stay ahead of Alonso. Although Alonso made three attempts to pass, Massa held second and Schumacher was ahead. "We had a great start, being first and second. It was an excellent situation to start the race," Schumacher said. After 10 laps Schumacher led by five seconds ahead of Massa with Alonso staying close. Jarno Trulli in fourth was another four seconds back. Schumacher slowly padded his margin, upping it to at the end of 20 laps. The first indication of race strategy came at the end of the 16th lap when Massa pitted first followed a lap later by Alonso then by Schumacher on the 18th. Intense competition By 23 laps, things had sorted out after all the leaders had pitted. Schumacher was still ahead but with a bit of breathing room. He was 6.1 seconds ahead of Massa and 11 ahead of Alonso. The second stint stretched things out even more. After 50 laps Schumacher was up by 20 over Massa and 30 over Alonso. However Alonso went in after 42 meaning he would be able to get to the end of the 70-lap race without another stop. "We went out three laps later and had fuel to the end," said Alonso. "We had two options. We figured the Ferraris were on a threestop. We took a gamble and we believed in our consistency," he added. The Ferrari's needed one more stop for fuel and tires. Alonso's Renault did not and he was able to get by Massa. It stayed that way until the end with Schumacher making an exaggerated stop in front of his team at the end. The next race is the German Grand Prix July 30. (AP)

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