It's party time for Ferrari fans after Monza

`Monza, where the only thing that counts is Ferrari!' proclaimed one trackside banner at the Italian Grand Prix and it was difficult to disagree.

Michael Schumacher's 50th win for the team emphatically marked his return to form.

"He's our hero. We should make him an honorary Italian," 49-year-old Giovanni Meloni bellowed, waving his prancing stallion Ferrari flag. Thousands of fans crammed into the finishing straight as soon as the race was over, screaming themselves hoarse while trying to dodge the red smoke flares whizzing past their shoulders and spiralling skywards. It was a far cry from the funereal mood three weeks ago.

After the Hungarian Grand Prix, Ferrari were branded a team in crisis said to be working not with glamour machines but Trabants, the east German car that was the butt of many jokes.

Ferrari supporters gather on the track to celebrate Michael Schumacher's triumph in the Italian Grand Prix. — Pic. REUTERS-

But all that was forgotten as Schumacher, in the fight of his life for a record sixth crown, roared past the chequered flag with a five-second margin.

"I travelled 800 kilometres to see this win. Now we can start believing again about getting our hands on the championship, both the drivers and the constructors," said hospital worker Antonio Palma, stroking his red cap.

"But the battle is still to be won, and it's a tough road ahead for Ferrari. If Schumacher continues with this concentration I think he can win. Indianapolis will probably be ok but we could suffer a lot in Suzuka," he added.

For the last two races of the season, Schumacher will be without his red army, which numbered 65,000 at Monza.

After the champagne had been sprayed, the Ferrari team acknowledged their debt to the fans.

"First of all we won such an important race with all that has happened before. And then you have all the emotions in front of you like that, it's just extraordinary," said Schumacher.

Sporting Director Jean Todt agreed. "It was an indescribable feeling standing on the top of the pit wall stand during the prize-giving, with all the fans shaking me by the hand," he said.