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Alonso, Schumacher down to the wire

Alonso, Schumacher down to the wire

The 2006 Formula One title could be decided this weekend as reigning world champion Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher enter Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix tied atop the driver's standings.
Trailing by 25 points heading into last Sunday's Chinese GP with seven races ago, Schumacher's win at Shanghai put him even with Alonso on 116 points.
Schumacher's latest victory was the 91st of his storied career his fifth of the last seven races, outpacing Alonso's start to the season when the Spaniard captured six of the first nine.
The last time Alonso won was in June at the Canadian GP.
Alonso is not discouraged.
"We will try to improve and to win every race," said Alonso. "Sometimes we can and sometimes not. (In China) we had a great opportunity, and we lost at the end with weather conditions that were not favorable for us."
The Renault driver trouble with the wrong choice of tires on a drying track at Shanghai. As if he needed ominous signs, it was raining Thursday when he came to the 5.8-kilometer (3.6-mile) Suzuka circuit.
"Suzuka is one of the more technical circuits, very difficult, and hopefully we will have a good race," Alonso said. "I think I have been very good here in the last few years, and it is the race of the last three that we are (most) looking forward to."
Alonso finished third here last year and Schumacher fifth. In 2004, Schumacher won the race, and his last driver's title for Ferrari.
Renault is a point ahead of Ferrari in the team race with a 179-178 lead, which is leading to discord among the team. Alonso told a Spanish TV station that he believed a "handful of people who don't want me to take the champion's number to McLaren."
Alonso is set to drive for McLaren in 2007 and if he wins the title, he will also take the No. 1 number for his car.
"They are not helping me as much as they could," he told the TV station.
Renault tried to defuse the situation, with a spokesman saying on condition of anonymity "the team is 150 percent behind Fernando in his battle for the championship and there is no question of our commitment."
He cited the team working overtime for nearly three weeks to find out the flaw in the engine that caused Alonso to drop out of the Italian GP.
If Alonso drops out at Japan and Schumacher wins Sunday, Schumacher will take an unassailable 10-point lead into the final race. The best Alonso could achieve would be a tie on points if he won in Brazil and Schumacher went scoreless.
If the final standings end in a tie, the winner is the driver with the most victories _ and Schumacher leads by seven to Alonso's six for now. If they were tied on wins, it would go to whoever has the most second-place finishes, which Alonso leads six to four.
There is practice Friday and Saturday morning with the qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday's 53-laps race.
The season ends in Brazil on Oct. 22.


Updated : 2020-12-06 07:11 GMT+08:00