Although Schumacher fears the continued threat of the McLaren driver, his Ferrari team have privately set themselves a goal which would take the German to the brink of the title. Ferrari are looking to repeat their stunning spell of form from this time last season when Schumacher began a run of three successive victories on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
Eddie Irvine, his team-mate, also finished third in Canada and Britain and second in France to give Ferrari a 44-point haul out of a possible 48. "If we can do what we did last year in the next three races, then we will be very confident about the title," a team source said.
Schumacher's efforts eventually proved in vain as Hakkinen won the championship in the last race, but a similar showing this year would put huge pressure on the Finn. Ferrari increasingly believe that this season their long wait - 20 years for the drivers' crown and 16 years since their last manufacturers' success - will be over.