F1 fans are anticipating a close battle between F1 protagonists Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen and the Monaco GP winner, a rejuvenated Juan-Pablo Montoya, at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

F1 fans are anticipating a close battle between F1 protagonists Michael Schumacher and Kimi Raikkonen and the Monaco GP winner, a rejuvenated Juan-Pablo Montoya, at this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher is hoping to return from the Gilles Villeneuve circuit on Monday with not only the winner’s trophy victory but a lead in the world championship standings, but McLaren-Mercedes’ Kimi Raikkonen is determined not to relinquish his points table advantage.

Raikkonen has finished fourth in the two Canadian Grands Prix he has competed in and the Finn said this week that he wanted to give McLaren's MP4-17D a fitting send-off with a top-three finish before the new MP4-18, which he drove for the first time last week, débuts in the European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring.

"I'm looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix," said the Finn. "I have finished fourth in both Canadian Grands Prix I have driven in and I'm hoping to move further up the points positions this year."

Schumacher, who has signed to stay at Ferrari until the end of the 2006 season, said: "I will be highly motivated this weekend and I will try to win and move ahead of Kimi in the championship. I am currently only four points behind him”.

The five-time world champion has an impressive record at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with five victories in 11 visits and points finishes on every occasion he has finished. He has retired only twice. Meanwhile, Raikkonen was denied a second victory in F1 in Monaco when Williams-BMW’s Montoya held off his challenge to take the chequered flag.

It was only Montoya's second win in F1 since the 1999 CART champion joined Williams-BMW for the 2001 season. The Colombian said that he was returning to North America on a high and that the Montreal circuit would suit the Williams-BMW package this weekend.

"Naturally I am approaching Canada on a high," Montoya said. "Monaco was a huge boost for all the team as we managed to be strong and consistent on a particularly difficult track. I believe that the Gilles Villeneuve Circuit should suit our chassis-engine-tyre package. We generally have performed well there in the past."