Motor racing: Ferrari gear up for run of wins

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER begins a crucial phase of the Formula One championship this weekend with an ambitious points target that could see off his rival Mika Hakkinen. Schumacher heads into Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal with a six-point lead over the title-holder with five races gone.

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.