Analysis: Schumacher Back in Title Hunt

As if by stealth, while the world of Formula One argues over who was to blame for Sunday's US Grand Prix fiasco, Michael Schumacher has re-entered the Championship reckoning

Analysis: Schumacher Back in Title Hunt

The title battle was the last thing on the minds of disgusted fans who threw cans and bottles on to the Indianapolis circuit during the six-car 'race' won by the seven-times champion.

The fans just wanted their money back after the seven Michelin teams pulled out before the start because of tyre safety concerns.

Yet the 10 points handed to the German on a plate by his rivals lifted him to third place in the standings and 25 points adrift of Renault's Spaniard Fernando Alonso.

Finland's Kimi Raikkonen, the winner of three of the four races for McLaren prior to Indianapolis, is just three points clear of Schumacher.

Ferrari, without a win for nine races in a row until Indianapolis after dominating last season, are suddenly level on points in the Constructors' Championship with McLaren and just 13 points behind Renault.

With France the next race up, a Grand Prix that Schumacher has won a record seven times in the past, the 36-year-old's title prospects no longer look quite as forlorn as they did a few races ago.

With Ferrari doing testing more than any other team, unburdened by any of the voluntary agreements entered into by the other nine, the champions can only be expected to improve from now on.

Qualifying Advantage

"Obviously I would have wished to fight this race under normal circumstances," said Schumacher after a podium celebration without any of the usual exuberation and with the champagne unsprayed.

"I think we had a very good car this weekend, which was strongish in qualifying but very strong in race condition. So I think we had a very fair chance anyway to fight for the victory today."

The ramifications of Sunday's race will carry over to Magny-Cours, on and off the track, with Schumacher and Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello now perfectly placed to take advantage of late qualifying slots.

Williams and Toyota paid the price for not competing at Indianapolis by dropping to fourth and fifth places respectively in the standings.

Further down the pecking order, struggling Jordan are now just one point behind Sauber.

Honda-powered BAR, runners-up to Ferrari overall last season, still have no points after almost half the season and are lagging last of all with even struggling Minardi now boasting seven points.

Minardi team head Paul Stoddart took no pride in that however: "Today did not happen as far as I'm concerned," he said after Dutchman Christijan Albers finished fifth and Austrian Patrick Friesacher sixth.

"I don't care about the points, I'm not in the slightest bit interested, this was a sad day for Formula One."

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