Grapevine: It's Party Time for Ferrari Fans after Monza

'Monza, where the only thing that counts is Ferrari!' proclaimed one trackside banner at the Italian Grand Prix and it was difficult to disagree on Sunday.

Grapevine: It's Party Time for Ferrari Fans after Monza

'Monza, where the only thing that counts is Ferrari!' proclaimed one trackside banner at the Italian Grand Prix and it was difficult to disagree on Sunday.

Michael Schumacher's 50th win for the team emphatically marked his return to form after being lapped in his last two outings, and he could not have chosen a more captive audience.

"He's our hero. We should make him an honorary Italian," 49-year-old Giovanni Meloni bellowed, waving his prancing stallion Ferrari flag.

Thousands of fans crammed into the finishing straight as soon as the race was over, screaming themselves hoarse while trying to dodge the red smoke flares whizzing past their shoulders and spiralling skywards.

It was a far cry from the funereal mood three weeks ago.

After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari were branded a team in crisis said to be working not with glamour machines but Trabants, the east German car that was the butt of many jokes.

But on Sunday all that was forgotten as Schumacher, in the fight of his life for a record sixth crown, roared past the chequered flag with a five-second margin. He had not won since Canada in June, five races previously, nor led for 327 laps.

Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello took a smidgen of shine off the performance when he failed to make it a Ferrari one-two, which would have been a role reversal of last year. But he did clinch third place and crucial points for the team.

Ferrari closed the gap with Williams to four points, while Schumacher is now three clear of Juan Pablo Montoya and seven points in front of McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen.

A Believer

"I travelled 800 kilometres to see this win. Now we can start believing again about getting our hands on the Championship, both the drivers and the constructors," said hospital worker Antonio Palma, stroking his red cap.

"But the battle is still to be won, and it's a tough road ahead for Ferrari. If Schumacher continues with this concentration I think he can win. Indianapolis will probably be ok but we could suffer a lot in Suzuka," he added.

For the last two races of the season, Schumacher will be without his red army, which numbered 65,000 at Monza on Sunday.

"I hope he can still hear our cheers when he gets to Indianapolis," said Antonio Frichano, who had made the trip from Duesseldorf with his German red wig-wearing friend Stefan.

After the champagne had been sprayed, the Ferrari team acknowledged their debt to the fans.

"First of all we won such an important race with all that has happened before. And then you have all the emotions in front of you like that, it's just extraordinary," said Schumacher.

Sporting Director Jean Todt agreed.

"It was an indescribable feeling standing on the top of the pit wall stand during the prize-giving, with all the fans shaking me by the hand," he said.

Monza, and indeed the whole of Italy, will be partying hard into the small hours, but their festival could be soon become a Williams fiesta if Colombian Montoya gets his way.

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