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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Schumacher Pulls Away With French Grand Prix

MAGNY-COURS, France -- Michael Schumacher opened up a clear 14-point lead in the battle for the world drivers' championship Sunday with a convincing and comfortable victory for Ferrari in the French Grand Prix.

Schumacher, winner of the title in 1994 and 1995 for Benetton, outclassed all his rivals and contradicted his own predictions by finishing 23 seconds clear of fellow German Heinz-Harald Frentzen in a Williams.

It was Schumacher's second successive victory, his third in four races and the 25th of his career -- a total that lifts him level with Briton Jim Clark and Austrian Niki Lauda in the record books.

Only Alain Prost (51), Ayrton Senna (41), Nigel Mansell (30) and Jackie Stewart (27), have won more Grand Prix.

Schumacher now has 47 points in the drivers' championship, ahead of Canadian Jacques Villeneuve of Williams with 33 and Frentzen with 19, and has an excellent chance of claiming his third title, despite all his protestations to the contrary. "Obviously I was wrong in what I said before this race," he admitted afterwards. "I just hope I am wrong again about the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. We were terrible there in the test, so I just hope we can improve as much as we did from the test here before this race."

In a generally predictable race enlivened by changing weather conditions, Schumacher's Ferrari teammate Eddie Irvine of Britain finished third to consolidate the Italian team's grip on the constructors' series. Ferrari now has 65 points to Williams' 52.

The first lap saw world champion Damon Hill of Britain lose all hope of a reasonable finish by being pushed out at the first corner into the gravel.

This forced him to limp back to the pits for a new nose and front wing section, and he finished the race 12th -- last among the cars that were still running.

Villeneuve, who spun off and recovered after attempting to lunge past Irvine on the last lap, finished fourth, ahead of Frenchman Jean Alesi in a Benetton and 21-year-old Ralf Schumacher in a Jordan.

The younger Schumacher owed his single point to the thoughtfulness of his brother, who slowed down to allow him to unlap himself by passing him at the final corner of his penultimate lap, and also some luck.