Emotional Schumacher knew title would come

An emotional Michael Schumacher admitted he was struggling to believe his five-year quest for the world title was finally over. But he said he had never given up on his belief that he would win a third world championship one day

Emotional Schumacher knew title would come

The German crossed the finish line 1.8 seconds ahead of arch rival Mika Hakkinen in Japan to end Ferrari's 21-year wait for the drivers' championship. The German leapt for joy on the podium as he became the first Ferrari driver since Jody Scheckter in 1979 to win the world crown.

Schumacher is only the eighth man in history to win the championship three times following in the footsteps of legendary names like Juan Manuel Fangio, Jack Brabham, Alain Prost, Jackie Stewart and Ayrton Senna. Victory means he has an unassailable 12-point lead with one round remaining in Malaysia in two weeks' time.

"I am struggling to believe what happened," said Schumacher. "I feel the same as after I won in Monza but don't expect me to cry again. This is the best of my three championships. Apolgies to Benetton but winning for them is not the same as winning for Ferrari."

He admitted that despite the five-year wait he had never lost faith that the world title would be his.

"I didn't think it would never happen again but as the wait got longer and longer the more upset I got. We had opportunities but we didn't take them for many reasons. To finally do it is simply great. Imagine what kind of celebrations are going on right now in Italy. It must be simply amazing."

His victory hinged on his second pit stop as Ferrari pitted two laps later than Hakkinen as the Finn lost time in the slippery conditions.

"As we saw Mika going in for his stop we knew we had a couple more laps to go and they were the critical ones," said Schumacher. "So I pushed hard and when I entered the pits there was a Benetton spinning in front of me and I was not sure where he was going but I just got past.

"As I was coming out after the stop I thought it wasn't enough. But Ross [Brawn] was on the radio looking up the pit straight for Mika and he kept saying its looking good, it's looking good and I was waiting for the words its not good enough. Then he said it looks bloody good and it was an amazing moment. It was one of the greatest moments in my racing career."

He said Ferrari had made no plans for a victory celebration on his orders.

"I had asked everyone not to plan in case it brought bad luck but I am sure we will celebrate somehow," he said with a smile.

David Coulthard was a distant third and Schumacher's team mate Rubens
Barrichello was fourth.

For a full race report, click here.

For full race results, click here.

For a lap-by-lap account of all the action, click here.

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