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Sometimes in sport the most nailed-on certainties fail to materialise while at other times things fall into place in the only way that seems possible, and this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix at Spa Francorchamps is likely to fall into the latter category.

Michael Schumacher will clinch his seventh world championship on Sunday if he scores two points more than his Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barichello at the track where Schumacher made his debut in 1991 and won his first race a year later.

Add in the fact that Ferrari is celebrating its 700th Grand Prix and that Schumacher is chasing his 7th Spa win at the nearest track to his home town of Kerpen, and the stage is set for some perfect sporting symmetry.

“I could never have dreamed that I'd come here in the position that am in,” said Schumacher. “It certainly is a strange coincidence with all of these sevens and it would be beautiful for me and Ferrari if I could get the seventh championship here.

“Spa is my favourite track. Some of my best moments took place here and this race is particularly linked with my career. And the track is special. It has a particular fascination for me,” he says.

It has been a season of almost total domination by the German. He has won 12 of the 13 races, missing out only on Monaco, where he collided with a lapped car while leading the race.

Set in undulating countryside in the Ardennes forest, Spa is the longest track in F1 and one of the fastest. It also has the widest variety of corners, from the 40mph La Source to the terrifying Eau Rouge, an S-bend which drops and then rises steeply.

This year, the quick men are grabbing seventh gear 100m before the entry and carrying over 190mph into the corner without lifting the throttle.

“Eau Rouge is a tremendous thrill,” says Schumacher. “Mentally you close your eyes and plunge into the dark, putting your trust in yourself and your car.”

On Friday there was a frightening reminder of the dark side of Eau Rouge as Toyota's Ryan Briscoe suffered a puncture on the entry to the corner and crashed heavily, destroying his car. He escaped with bruising on his arms.

F1 is at its best when it looks difficult and dangerous and Spa is the embodiment of both. It is a track where the driver's ability counts for more than his car. His skill and bravery can make a real difference to the lap time. This is even more true in the wet and rain is forecast for both Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race.

It stayed dry for Friday's practice session and McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time ahead of Jenson Button's BAR and Schumacher. But this is a pattern we have seen often this season. Come qualifying and the race day, however, Schumacher's Ferrari seems always to have the legs on the others. All three men rise to the occasion of Spa, and Schumacher sees a strong challenge from them this weekend.

“We always go out there to win,” he said. “Because we have a very strong car. But McLaren and BAR have a chance here.”

He has talked up the opposition all year but they have not come close to beating him yet. And all the augurs suggest that Schumacher will fulfil his destiny on Sunday and drive himself into seventh heaven.

James Allen is lead F1 commentator for ITV Sport

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.
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