`One of the greatest days in my career'

An emotional Michael Schumacher clinched victory in the Italian Grand Prix and said that the win, his 50th as a Ferrari driver, was one of the best of his career.

"It's one of the greatest days in my career," said Schumacher after his 5.294sec win had given him his fifth victory of the season but his first since the Canadian Grand Prix six rounds ago.

"We have had a lot of tough races where we haven't been winning and not scoring the points we wanted to," said Schumacher.

"There was a big push at the factory during the summer break and everyone was motivated to do well.

Michael Schumacher takes the chequered flag, to win the Italian GP. — Pic. CLIVE ROSE/GETTY IMAGES-

"Everybody worked more than 100 percent and I have to thank everyone in the factory — from the test team to the cleaning lady. They have done a tremendous job and I owe them all a big thank you."

Schumacher had to resist a fierce wheel-to-wheel challenge from the Colombian going into the first chicane and again at the second bend on the first lap.

"I locked up then and almost didn't make the chicane. I almost lost position. Juan came on the outside and we had a good fight, very hard and very fair," said the German.

"But I won that tussle and then the race." Montoya closed down the German in the second stint of the race but after the final set of pit stops he was unable to make an impression and lost vital time behind Heinz Harald Frentzen's Sauber.

"There were some very slow back markers and they didn't move out of the way but it would have been very difficult to pass Michael anyway," admitted the Colombian who believes his title dream is still alive heading into the final two races in the United States and Japan.

Despite his victory, Schumacher admitted he had a panic situation when he emerged from the pit-lane after his second stop believing the Williams of Montoya had somehow got ahead of him.

The Ferrari team also believed the Colombian had pulled off a sensational move, but Schumacher was thankful to learn the car was in fact that of Montoya's team-mate Marc Gene, who was still to make a second pit-stop.

"I was on the radio and they said everything should be OK but after the second stop when I came out I was behind a Williams," Schumacher said of the incident.

"They were shouting at me and I shouted back, `How the hell did he do that?' They were then screaming, `Watch out he's coming,' but luckily it was Gene."

Ferrari's technical director Ross Brawn said the team had gone through "about 10 seconds of agony" before realising Spaniard Gene, who was deputising for the injured Ralf Schumacher, was the man ahead.

"We had an agonising moment when Michael came out of the pits and we thought Montoya was in front. So did Michael," Brawn said.

"There was about ten seconds of agony before we realised what was going on and that it was Gene."