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F1 fight heads to Italy

The Schu fits: Michael Schumacher won at Monza last year ahead of Mika Hakkinen and Ralf Schumacher.

With Ferrari in top spot, McLaren leads the race for second in the F1 drivers' and constructors' titles

Mercedes-Benz logo13 Sep 2001

THE McLaren-Mercedes Formula One team heads to Italy's Monza circuit this weekend looking to consolidate second position in both the constructors' and drivers' championships.

David Coulthard has 57 points, nine points ahead of Ferrari's Rubens Barrichello and a further four points in front of Williams' Ralf Schumacher.

In the constructors' standings, McLaren has 81 points to the Williams team's 59 points.

Michael Schumacher and Ferrari already hold an unassailable lead in the two titles.

McLaren's most recent victory at Monza was in 1997 when Coulthard took the chequered flag - although the team's other driver Mika Hakkinen holds the lap record of 1 minute, 25.139 seconds.

Fourth-placed Sauber has 20 points but is not a threat for a podium finish with only three races remaining in the season.

But the race is on for the minor positions as BAR and Jordan are equal in fifth place, just four points adrift of Sauber, while Benetton is also in contention with 10 points.

Monza holds a special significance for the Renault-powered Benetton outfit this season as it will be its final Italian Grand Prix as an Italian team.

The strong performance by Giancarlo Fisichella at the Belgian Grand Prix last time out - with a new aerodynamic package - has the team confident of a good result this weekend.

It will also have an improved spec engine for qualifying to help gain stronger grid positions.

Malaysian driver Alex Yoong will make his F1 debut at Monza, replacing Brazilian Tarso Marques in the Minardi outfit.

Yoong becomes the first Malaysian to reach the upper echelon of world motorsport and the first Asian driver in almost 50 years to make the grade.

Marques has stepped down to the role of test and reserve driver for Minardi.

Another F1 debut at the Italian Grand Prix will be Tomas Enge, substituting for the injured Luciano Burti in the second Prost-Acer car.

Enge, 25, will become the first Czech to drive in F1 when he competes this weekend, after being called up from the F3000 category where he is currently second in the championship, equal with Australia's Mark Webber.

Enge will miss the chance to seal the runner-up position in F3000 as the final race of the season is also at Monza this weekend.

The Czech only recently signed with the Prost team, taking on the test driver role for the rest of the season. He had his first test drive just over a week ago, completing 120 laps at the Magny Cours circuit in France without any problems.

Burti has just been released from hospital following a high-speed accident at the Belgian Grand Prix 10 days ago. No announcement has yet been made as to when he will be back behind the wheel of an F1 car.

DRIVERS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 M Schumacher (GER) 104 points
2 Coulthard (SCO) 57
3 Barrichello (BRA) 48
4 R Schumacher (GER) 44
5 Hakkinen (FIN) 24
6 Montoya (COL) 15
7 Villeneuve (CAN) 11
8 Heidfeld (GER) 11
9 Raikkonen (FIN) 9
10 Trulli (ITA) 9CONSTRUCTORS' CHAMPIONSHIP
1 Ferrari 152
2 McLaren 81
3 Williams 59
4 Sauber 20
=5 BAR 16
=5 Jordan 16
7 Benetton 10
8 Jaguar 5
9 Prost 4
10 Arrows 1

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