Schumacher's Hopes Continue to Fade

Michael Schumacher's already-distant chances of defending his World Championship faded further on Sunday when the Ferrari ace finished fifth in the European Grand Prix

Schumacher's Hopes Continue to Fade

Rather than celebrating a badly needed victory in front of his German fans to jump start a disappointing year, the seven times Champion was nearly a minute off the pace at the Nurburgring.

After seven of 19 races, Schumacher is 43 points behind Spain's Fernando Alonso, the overall leader who took his fourth win of the year for Renault.

"The fact is that we were not fast enough today," said Schumacher, who has won five times at the circuit near his boyhood home of Kerpen.

"We're usually faster in the race than in the qualifying, but today that wasn't even the case.

"The situation usually is that in the races we're faster than the others. This time we were slower in the qualifying and in the race, not faster."

Schumacher is suffering the worst start to a season of his career, and was a modest seventh in Monaco last week, while Ferrari have now not won for eight races in a row.

However he raised Ferrari's hopes with a spectacular duel at last month's San Marino Grand Prix, the fourth race of the season, when he finished second to Alonso.

Although he refuses to give up on the Championship until it is mathematically out of reach, Sunday's looked like a pivotal defeat.

"That's the good thing about sport - there's always hope," said Schumacher. "Hope is the last thing to die".

While his Germans fans have been rattled by the sudden collapse of the man who was almost invincible last season, winning 13 of 18 races, Schumacher again refused to blame Bridgestone tyres.

"The problem is you have to look at the whole package," he said. "You can't look at just one area. We have to look at every little detail.

"All the different areas come together and they have to be in harmony with each other. At the moment that's not happening."

Schumacher lost ground to most of the drivers in front of him on Sunday yet he managed to find a silver lining in his Brazilian teammate's performance.

"Rubens (Barrichello) had a wonderful race. His third place is a step in the right direction," he said.

"It's a pity what happened to Kimi so close to the finish. It's a bitter setback," he added, referring to the McLaren driver's tyre failure one lap from the finish line while leading.

"Things are not looking so bad for us. Getting to the podium is a big boost. It shows that things are moving forward. But we still have to do our homework."

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