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Shootout in Brazil

Looking ahead to Brazil, Michael Schumacher’s goal seems as simple as it has ever been – to win the race. Whatever happens to Alonso, Michael needs to win this one to leave the sport on a high. So the current situation has actually removed all pressure from the German – he can concentrate on winning without thought of points in the bag. And, of course, if Alonso does encounter a problem that prevents him earning the single point that he needs, Michael will have the bonus of one more championship to add to his collection.

Button

Jenson Button in Japan

Paradoxically, this leaves all the pressure still on Renault. They know only too well that, if Alonso does not win, Michael will, so they have to ensure that the Spaniard finishes the race and in the points. The dithering over which engine spec to use, the new E or the tried and tested D, has already begun. There are tires to think of too – a puncture could ruin everything – plus all the other things that could go wrong, like a back marker who fails to notice that he is being lapped and drives into Alonso. The heat remains on Renault until the end.

There have been other years when similar scenarios have occurred. In 1983, Nelson Piquet needed to win in South Africa to make sure of stealing the championship from Prost. Piquet built a huge lead right from the start and was still going like the clappers in the Brabham BMW when he heard that Prost had retired. Suddenly, Nelson only needed to finish fourth or higher and he turned the boost way down to spare the engine, even allowing himself to be passed a couple of times. Patrese went on to win that race and Piquet duly sauntered into third and the championship.

I doubt things will be as easy for Alonso at Interlagos, however. Retirements for Michael are about as rare as hen’s teeth and Alonso will have to drive a narrow edge between speed and reliability for the entire distance. He will have earned his championship by the time he crosses the line.

What I would really like to see, even though it would defuse the whole championship battle, is for someone else to win in Brazil. Realistically, that would have to be Kimi Raikkonen. He has been close several times this year but has yet to win one and the lack of pace from the McLaren in Japan is unlikely to be repeated at Interlagos. It would be good if he could avoid a year without victories by taking the last race of the year.

Otherwise, the only ones in with a possibility of the win are the Ferrari and Renault number twos, Massa and Fisichella. As long as Michael is running, Massa will not be allowed to win, however. Fizzy stands a better chance, since Alonso would be content with a points-scoring finish, but somehow I can’t see him beating Schumacher unless it rains.

Which leaves only the Hondas and BMWs – and I don’t think they’re quite up to beating the top three as yet. Next year, maybe. And, of course, Toyota will find a way to shoot themselves in the foot…

It is going to be a fascinating race in Brazil and no-one is going to turn away for a moment, even though the championship looks as good as decided. After all, anything can happen in motor racing!

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