Michael Schumacher has dismissed Juan-Pablo Montoya's challenge and declared himself the favourite to win the world championship crown, starting with a win at the twisty Hungaroring this weekend.

Michael Schumacher has dismissed Juan-Pablo Montoya's challenge and declared himself the favourite to win the world championship crown, starting with a win at the twisty Hungaroring this weekend.


Schumacher has seen his points lead whittled down to just six and has not won for four races in which time he has finished on the podium just once. In contrast, Montoya has won two of the last six grands prix in his Williams-BMW and finished third on three other occasions.


The Colombian's team-mate Ralf Schumacher will be able to qualify without the 10-slot grid penalty, which was slapped on him after the first lap carnage at Hockenheim but subsequently overturned by the FIA – raising the possibility of the Grove-based team using team tactics to spoil the five-time world champion’s race strategy.


Although McLaren-Mercedes' Kimi Raikkonen, who is nine points adrift, cannot be discounted, the scene is set for a title-chasing showdown between Schumacher and Montoya.


And Schumacher knows he cannot continue to yield the kind of ground he has lost to the Colombian in recent races, although he has confidence his team will turn the tide. The German says Ferrari's all-round package will be too good for Montoya over the final four races of the season.


"I feel optimistic," said Schumacher. "We have had a tough time recently, but I think the good times will come back and at this stage I think I am favourite to win the championship.


"Even though I've not won a race for a while, I'm not concerned when I look at my points situation and what has gone wrong. It's true Williams have the momentum right now. I had mine earlier in the season, and now he (Montoya) is. But who knows how things will go for the rest of the season.


"It's always in stages. I think we can accept being behind for one, maybe two, more races and not lose too much ground. But we have to be first from then on.


"I believe we will be able to turn around the situation to our advantage to the end of the year, even though it's looking difficult right now, he added. "But what will see us through is our teamwork. We're also strong in development and I've been around long enough now that I'm not fazed by what's happening.


"We'd love to win the championship as early as possible, but if it goes to Suzuka then we will settle for that. If we can avoid it then we will try," Schumacher said.


The Budapest track has been altered somewhat this year; the pit straight is longer and the circuit itself has been lengthened slightly by one of the last corners being straightened. Maximum downforce is usually the norm on the tight, twisty layout and good mechanical grip is an essential requirement. There are no particularly fast corners and the Hungaroring is one of the tracks where overtaking is very difficult.


The temperature in Budapest can get very high, a good cooling system is needed, and the track is bumpy and usually very dusty. But the surface is quite smooth and the circuit is one of the slower ones on the calendar. Tyre degradation is quite high and even a very slight off-track excursion can take maybe half a dozen corners to clean the tyres off. Compounds will probably be in the softer end of the range as teams search for grip.


Williams should carry through its strong performances from the last couple of races, although the Hungaroring has not been a particularly good track for the team in the past.


With no testing since Hockenheim, so no chance to put any factory developments into practice, it's not likely Ferrari will have found a way to improve its performance. But Hungary does not seem to be a circuit that favours any one team although, with the exception of Benetton in 1994, only Ferrari, Williams and McLaren have won at the track. McLaren needs a good result here to keep its and Raikkonen's title hopes alive.

Original article from Car