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Motor racing-Ralf Schumacher hits 150 races in Michael's shadow

By Staff
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NUERBURGRING, Germany, May 4 (Reuters) Ralf Schumacher starts his 150th grand prix on home ground this weekend with older brother Michael's immense shadow still hanging over him.

The two Germans sat side by side at a European Grand Prix news conference today, smiling and standing up to shake hands for the cameras as siblings with 91 Formula One wins between them.

Ferrari's seven times world champion Michael has won a record 85 of them, however.

Just glancing across at his 37-year-old brother as the camera shutters clicked was enough for Ralf to take stock once again of how much he still has to achieve after nearly a decade on the starting grid.

''Don't remind me,'' the Toyota driver said of his 150th race.

''It's pretty clear I have not achieved what I targeted when I started in Formula One. It's amazing how quick time goes by,'' added the 30-year-old.

''I hope I have the time to put it right.'' Six wins, six pole positions, eight fastest laps and 27 podiums are the vital statistics so far.

Apart from the podiums, Michael more than matched all of that in 2004 alone when he won 13 races, set eight pole positions and clocked 10 fastest laps.

His latest win at last month's San Marino Grand Prix, Ferrari's home Imola circuit, came after he had secured a record 66th pole position.

STRONG SUPPORT The Nuerburgring has provided one of Ralf's wins, with Williams in 2003 before the circuit south of Cologne was extensively revamped, but he has failed to finish in his last two visits.

''They did a lot of changes to the good, it's very safe and a nice circuit -- especially for us and I've known it since my first steps in motorsport and it's always great to be here,'' said the German.

Ralf can count on strong support from his Toyota team, with the entire Cologne factory invited to the race, but his chances of handing them a first grand prix win remain remote.

The talk is all about Michael, on his future beyond the end of the season and whether the Ferrari driver's impressive Imola performance was a real measure of the team's form or just a flash in the pan.

''I think it is the question in everybody's head now,'' said Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso, winner last year, when asked whether he expected Ferrari to be as strong at the Nuerburgring as they were at Imola.

''I think we have to wait. Last year they were slow everywhere and Imola really quick. Maybe the same thing will happen this year.

''I hope they still have problems with the tyres, the car or whatever and are not so quick. We will find out this weekend but to be honest I expect more competition from McLaren than Ferrari.'' Schumacher, winner four times at the Nuerburgring and with his performance at Imola acclaimed as on a par with his finest drives, suggested Alonso might be surprised.

''I believe we are in a position to fight for it,'' he said.

''It's a very close competition between at least three if not more teams who certainly can win the race.

''If we can get the most out of the package, we can do that.'' REUTERS PM PC2204

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