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 Friday, October 20
Schumi, Ferrari celebrate F1 title
 
 Associated Press

SUZUKA, Japan -- Michael Schumacher clinched the world Formula One driving title, the first for Ferrari in 21 years, by winning the Japanese Grand Prix on Sunday.

Michael Schumacher
Mika Hakkinen made a daring pass on the first lap of the Japanese Grand Prix, but the red Ferrari of German Michael Schumacher (right) crossed the finish line first for the F1 title.

Schumacher is 12 points ahead of his closest challenger, Mika Hakkinen, who won the title the last two years for McLaren-Mercedes.

There is one race left in the season, the Malaysian Grand Prix on Oct. 22, and Hakkinen cannot catch Schumacher.

"It is difficult to find proper words for such a feeling," Schumacher said. "The way we did it -- a fight until the last corner -- is simply outstanding."

Hakkinen was second by 1.8 seconds after leading most of the first 37 laps. The Finn then pitted to give up the lead to Schumacher. When Schumacher pitted at the end of 40 laps, he came out ahead of Hakkinen and went on to victory.

This is the third driving title for Schumacher, who won with the Benetton team in 1994 and 1995. He moved to Ferrari at the end of 1995 and has been pursuing that title since for the Italian carmaker.

With three world championships, Schumacher joins five other drivers to accomplish the feat in Formula One. Juan-Manuel Fangio of Argentina holds record with five, followed by Alain Prost of France with four.

"There was such an outbreak of emotion when I crossed the finish line," Schumacher said. "The ups and down going on throughout the season and the way we achieved it."

The German covered the 53 laps of the 3.6-mile Suzuka circuit in 1 hour, 29 minutes, 53.345 seconds. He averaged 128.84 mph over 193 miles.

The race began with Schumacher trying to take advantage of his head start to veer in front of Hakkinen, who held the inside position heading into the first curve.

But the McLaren driver went wide to the inside of the track to avoid the challenge and powered into the lead even as puffs of smoke could be seen from his engine.

Hakkinen was about a second ahead of Schumacher through the first half of the 53-lap race as they pulled away from third-placed David Coulthard in the other McLaren.

"I knew it was going to be very very tough to catch up. I was sliding all over the place," Hakkinen said. "On the final lap, Michael slowed down and I went over the limit and couldn't catch him."

 


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AUDIO/VIDEO
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 Michael Schumacher comments on Ferrari's long anticipated return to the F1 title.
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RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6

 A disappointed Mika Hakkinen says he'll be ready to fight for the title next season.
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RealAudio: 14.4 | 28.8 | 56.6