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Alonso, Schumacher have wet start to weekend

Alonso, Schumacher have wet start to weekend

Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso opted out of Friday's opening practice at the Japanese Grand Prix because of heavy rain.
With the 2006 drivers' championship possibly on the line in Japan, defending champion Alonso and seven-time titlist Schumacher decided not to take any risks venturing out in what amounts to a test run for the cars.
With better conditions forecast for the weekend, most of the race drivers sat out the first practice and let the test drivers do the laps.
There was another practice session scheduled later Friday and Saturday morning, with qualifying on Saturday ahead of Sunday's 53-lap GP.
Schumacher, who will retire after the season, could wrap up his eighth world title if he wins Sunday and Alonso drops out or finishes scoreless.
Schumacher's victory in Shanghai last weekend tied him with Alonso on 116 points in the championship after being 25 points adrift with seven races to go in the season.
His latest victory marked the 91st of Schumacher's storied career and his fifth in the last seven races. Alonso started the season by winning six of the first nine races, the last coming in June at the Canadian GP.
Schumacher clinched the F1 title twice in Japan (2000, 2003), beating McLaren's Mika Hakkinen each time. Overall, Schumacher has won the Suzuka event six times.
Alonso finished third here last year and Schumacher was fifth.
Alonso's Renault team is a point ahead of Schumacher's Ferrari outfit in the constructors' championship at 179-178. The season ends on Oct. 22 in Brazil.
Sunday's race has Schumacher and not Alonso able to clinch the title in Japan.
If Alonso drops out or is scoreless 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 are tied, 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.
Sunday's race will be the last F1 race at Suzuka for a while, with the Japanese GP shifting to the Fuji circuit about 150 kilometers (93 miles) west of Tokyo from next year.