#767 2006 Japanese Grand Prix

2022-01-05 10:11

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#2006, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Alice Simonin, Translated by Margherita Schiatti,

#767 2006 Japanese Grand Prix

It is the track that I love. That is not a slogan for the use and consumption of the Tifosi of the Scuderia Ferrari, anxious about the final sprint of


It is the track that I love. That is not a slogan for the Scuderia Ferrari Tifosi, anxious about the final sprint of the World Championship. Michael Schumacher really likes Suzuka and Japan, the circuit on which there may be a final showdown between him and Fernando Alonso on Sunday, October 8, 2006. A heavy sentence, for someone who does not like comparisons, who never willingly evokes past feats, who never dives backwards, fearing that it might distract him from the present. On the other hand, for a driver who has won ninety-one races in every corner of the world, it is not easy to find a track that has something extra, that can offer a greater load of emotions. Michael Schumacher is revered everywhere, he has triumphed everywhere, he has a crowd waiting outside his hotel everywhere, Tifosi who, like in China, follow him closely and even know at what time he went to sleep. But regarding Suzuka, it is a different story. Not only for his driving style:


"It's a track that is very demanding, a driver must be committed to making every effort, and the possibility of making a mistake is always lurking. But it's also fun, exciting, the ideal place to drive a Formula 1 car". 


Suzuka is also special for the atmosphere and especially for the wins. It has often been the crossroads of dreams for Michael Schumacher. In 1998, his ambitions were mortified on the starting grid. He was fighting with Mika Häkkinen but the engine of his car turned off. What followed was a frantic chase after the Finnish, unstoppable. But Suzuka, where Michael Schumacher has won six times, could not only be fatal. In 2000, the best day came, the Sunday that the German always mentions, which he recalls most gladly, that of his first World Championship with Ferrari. The Maranello team had been waiting for twenty-one years, Michael Schumacher beat Mika Häkkinen and it brought him back on top of the world. It was an unforgettable moment, the German never willingly lets out his emotions, but he even now admits that his heart was bursting on the podium. Happiness and emotion that in 2003, another thing that makes the Ferrari's driver unique, became only long face and contained joy. Always Suzuka, another world title, the fourth in a row with the team from Maranello, but won with a poor eighth place and just two points ahead of Kimi Räikkönen. Michael Schumacher loves winning but, on that day, it was the turn of the other Ferrari, the one of Rubens Barrichello. The German was only forced to defend himself and in the end, to the general amazement, he said that it was not the best way to win a world championship title. Now Japan is again in his destiny, and this time Michael Schumacher would not twist his mouth at a thin lead over Fernando Alonso. The imperative is to be able to stay ahead of the Spaniard, a feat the Ferrari driver does not consider easy.


"We are on the same level in everything, points in the standings and car, the details will make the difference, and a small mistake can screw it all up". 


A wet track, for example, is likely given that the weather forecast talks about upcoming rain. It would complicate everything, given that in the dry Ferrari, as demonstrated in China, seems to have no rivals at the moment. However, Bridgestone, the company which provides the tyres to the Maranello team, is ready to answer this threat. Suzuka is their home track, the headquarters of the factory are very close, for the Japanese round a task force has already been set up, tyres (the main key to each win) of every single type, to provide for every eventuality. An effort that puts Michael Schumacher in a good mood and makes the balance tilt in his favour. Besides, Luca Baldisserri, one of Ferrari's most distinguished strategists, was immediately explicit after Shanghai: 


"We were concerned about China, it was the Renault joker, at Suzuka our car and Schumacher should make the difference". 


With talent and serenity, that calmness - at least apparent - that no longer seems to belong to Alonso, in conflict with his own team, guilty of not helping him enough given his imminent move to McLaren, but also with himself. On Sunday evening, in Shanghai, he was furious: 


"I've wasted a huge opportunity, I should have won, I was ahead, we cannot afford all those mistakes". 


Mistakes that bring him into play, since it was also his choice to change the two front tyres during the first stop. 


"I didn't trust them, the old ones were gone, they could have made me go off track".


Fatal doubts, hardly ever in Michael Schumacher's mind.


"The greatest driver of all time".


As Jean Todt repeated. Now, there is Suzuka, the track that he loves. Theoretically, he could already close the books there, with a win and Fernando Alonso out of the first eight drivers at the finish line, but he has no illusions: 


"Everything will be decided with the final race, in Brazil". 


But Japan could still remain etched in his memory. 2006, the Sunday of the ultimate getaway. Towards the eighth World Championship. On Saturday, October 7, 2006, Ferrari secured the front row at the end of qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix. Felipe Massa took the pole position, lapping in 1'29"599. Michael Schumacher will start at his side. The repetition of what had already happened in Turkey: the front row of the Grand Prix will be all red, but the Brazilian will be the one to start ahead of everyone. The absolute best time of qualifying, and the track record, however, is from Michael Schumacher. In Q2, when the access among the ten drivers that can fight for the pole position is at stake, the German set an incredible 1'28"954 which kept Felipe Massa 0.876 seconds behind. Fernando Alonso, with his Renault, did not go higher than the fifth-best time and will start from the third row. He will have his teammate, Giancarlo Fisichella (1'30"599), by his side. Ahead of both Renaults, on the second row, there are the Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher (1'29"989) and Jarno Trulli (1'30"039). Honda secured the fourth row with Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello. Eleventh best time and sixth row for the future substitute of Michael Schumacher, the Finnish Kimi Räikkönen in his McLaren, with a time of 1'30"827. Eighth row and fifteenth best time for the Toro Rosso of Vitantonio Liuzzi with a time of 1'31"943. At the end of qualifying, Michael Schumacher said:


"So far, it's a great weekend. As the Toyotas shows, Bridgestone works very well here". 


But during free practice, when drops of rain fell on Suzuka, Michelin reversed the situation. 


"On the wet, it is not a surprise. Still, we start from the front row and Renault from the third, and that is a good starting point. Of course, I would have preferred the pole position. But Felipe did a great job and we don't fight each other between us: we work together".


And Felipe, also happy, added:


"For me, it was a fantastic result like in Turkey". 


And then it is Jean Todt's turn to make an exception to his little talkativeness, expressing great satisfaction for:


"An all-red front row in a crucial moment of the season".


The front row is all red, Alonso lagging behind. It could be the right opportunity to seize the title: an eventuality evoked in a whisper to not jinx it. If Michael Schumacher wins and Fernando Alonso does not score points, the World Championship is his. There is therefore great nervousness within the pits of the French team, where Flavio Briatore calls Felipe Massa a child. Probably to avoid sanctions, the sports director of the French team avoids repeating that the World Championship title would already have been awarded in advance, as denounced at Monza: but he does not resist when he sees the pole position won by Felipe Massa. Because of having impeded him during qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso was penalised. According to Flavio Briatore, this time it was precisely Ferrari's Brazilian driver who unlawfully impeded Fernando Alonso during the official qualifying sessions, in order to favour his teammate, Michael Schumacher, and to relegate the Spaniard, who is side by side with him at top of the standings, as far back as possible.


"Massa is this type of guy. He is a child. A small child. Small in every sense. He was ahead of Fernando, braking as hard as he could and so on. We will talk about it to the race director, Charlie Whiting. That's just perfect. We'll tell Charlie what has happened, but nothing is going to happen. We already know what the answer will be".


Thankfully then, he goes back to talking about the race.


"It's obvious, we are worried. Looking at the times, Ferrari seems to have largely dominated, but then we can see that Toyota has also done it. They were exceptional during qualifying, but we'll see what will happen tomorrow".


Still, Felipe Massa, capable in Japan to take the second pole of his career, with a fantastic time, 0.112 seconds faster than Michael Schumacher, almost 0.8 seconds better than Fernando Alonso and a second faster than Giancarlo Fisichella, the two Renault drivers starting from the third row. And he says with confidence:


"Next year, it will be my turn".


 The Brazilian driver is not afraid of overreaching. 


"In 2007, I aim to win the World Championship, I have a huge opportunity and I don't want to waste it". 


An optimism based on his great professional growth, the strength of his car, the absence of Michael Schumacher and the problems of acclimatisation that Kimi Räikkönen might encounter, but also on the considerable advantage that Ferrari should have with the abandonment of Michelin and the switch of all the teams to Bridgestone, already supplier for years of the Maranello team and the only tyre brand present from 2007 onwards in the World Championship. It will be the same tyre for all, the FIA has given precise guidelines, it will have to have less grip, and a harder compound and will arrive at the same time in all the pits at the beginning of January, for the first tests. Theoretically, those who are already supplied by the Japanese company (Ferrari, Toyota, Williams, Spyker and Super Aguri) should not have advantages, but it is hard to think that at least at first the in-depth knowledge of the partner does not constitute an important joker. Many think that Ferrari, already ahead of everyone in the tyre competition, will start out as a favourite and Massa is among them.


"We already know how to adapt the car to the tyres to make them work well, we have to take advantage of that, starting strong from the first races". 


According to him, it is a wealth of experience that adds up to another. 


"At the beginning, Räikkönen could find himself in difficulty, he has to know well the team, while I personally learnt a lot from Schumacher, he has been a fundamental point of reference, I have to put his advice into practice for a further step forward. The first Grands Prix can be decisive: if I manage to keep my lead on Räikkönen, I can have the title in my hands". 


A clear plan which only runs up against a few drawbacks. First of all, not everyone at Ferrari agrees on the great initial advantage regarding tyres. While Brawn, a strategist who might leave at the end of the season, acknowledges that:


"Even the tyre itself can be a big challenge because you have to build a car that can make the most of it". 


Others are more cautious about Ferrari's big chances, due to the unknown factor of the difficult transition from Schumacher to Räikkönen. No one, inside F1, doubts his speed. But Schumacher is not only fast, he is a driver completely involved in the life of the team. There may be a risk of confusion, of a power vacuum, especially if Jean Todt were to take on a more subtle role and Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne (loyal to Michael Schumacher) really stepped aside. Renault, which will no longer have Alonso, is clinging to its managerial stability. Giancarlo Fisichella will become the leader and claims: 


"Like Massa, I also aim to win the World Championship". 


However, he admits: 


"Our secret has always been to arrive at the debut with the car already all set and to start strong. The transition to Bridgestone can make everything more difficult, allowing Ferrari to use our very own strategy". 


Fernando Alonso, however, does not know what to hold on to at the moment, given the situation McLaren is facing. Kimi Räikkönen says: 


"I'm eleventh, on the sixth row, with a perfect lap, the maximum that can be done with this car". 


For those who fear for Michael Schumacher's legacy, he replies: 


"At McLaren I was replacing Mika Häkkinen, why should I be afraid? All I need is the right car and I will win".


On Sunday, October 8, 2006, at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, the Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Michael Schumacher got off to a good start, just like Ralf Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, fourth at the end of the first lap after having overtaken Jarno Trulli. In the meantime, Jenson Button overtook Giancarlo Fisichella. Over the course of lap three, Felipe Massa gave way to his teammate, in the fight for the title, but Fernando Alonso was fully in the race because, thanks to the first series of pit stops, during lap 15, he overtook both Felipe Massa and Ralf Schumacher (who had stopped into the pits on lap 13), putting himself right behind his rival. 


Michael Schumacher, on the other hand, pitted on lap 17. At this point, it became a race of nerves, but Michael Schumacher was perfect and even managed a decent gap over the Spanish driver, around 5 seconds. Over the course of lap 37, however, at the level of the Degner corners, the engine of the 248 F1 gave out; the German had not retired with an engine problem since the 2000 French Grand Prix. Back into the pits, Michael Schumacher thanked one by one all the men of the team from Maranello. With Felipe Massa too far back to challenge Fernando Alonso, and Kimi Räikkönen, the only one who managed to lap at the same pace as the Spanish driver, but was third and he had not done his second stop yet, the race seemed to be over. In fact, after Kimi Räikkönen's stop into the pits to make his refuel, Giancarlo Fisichella took third place, ahead of Jenson Button. The only drivers on the track fighting with each other were those of BMW Sauber, fighting for eighth place. Fernando Alonso had the all-clear and won the Japanese Grand Prix, ahead of Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella. Jenson Button was fourth, followed by Kimi Räikkönen, Jarno Trulli, Ralf Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld. Who is that man flapping his wings like a phoenix rising from the ashes? Who is that crazy-waving driver, doing improbable dance steps, jumping like hell on the podium? He is wearing blue, not the long-awaited, predicted red. His name is Fernando Alonso, he is the new generation, who confirmed himself as a World Champion, who proved to be ready to fulfil the heavy legacy, while the old one who is leaving, the fierce Michael Schumacher, is all intent in the pits to console his team for the fierce blow of destiny, the Ferrari engine falling into pieces, the dreams going up in smoke. Fernando Alonso, the man who had never won here, wins at Suzuka while Michael Schumacher, the samurai who, on this beloved track, had triumphed six times, fails to succeed. It is Renault that rejoices with the most unexpected win of Fernando Alonso's career. All the fault of a cursed lap, the number 37, the car just left the pits after the second stop, the engine that makes a strange gurgling sound, the smoke that begins to come out from the rear, Michael Schumacher who understands, wistfully warns the team via radio and then parks at turn ten. 


In Italy, it is morning, it is a minute past 8:00 a.m., and at that moment the great hope vanishes, the possibility of a farewell as World Champion, the German legend who says goodbye with the eighth World Championship title. He was leading the race and nothing foreshadowed an ending other than his triumph. He had managed second place well at the start, and at the beginning of the third lap he had overtaken Felipe Massa, right on the straight, right after the finish line, he had always remained in the lead, getting brilliantly rid of two pit stops, at the end of lap 18 and lap 36. He had not humiliated Fernando Alonso, as one might have supposed after the times set on Saturday, the Spaniard had always remained about five seconds behind, but who cares, there is no need to always destroy all your rivals, you just have to finish with the car in front and the dream can still be crowned. He was the fastest and only an unforeseen event could have stopped him. That trouble materialises immediately after the pond and forces him, before the end of the race, to cheer up all the mechanics, with handshakes, pulled smiles, and pats on the back. Fernando Alonso is behind, he is not very close, so much so that he immediately mistakes the Ferrari for a Spyker, he does not understand that instead, it is Michael Schumacher, but from that cloud of smoke draws great energy, dribbles it with elegance, abandons it as a triumphant. Nothing could stop him and in fact, he left undisturbed towards the finish line, zigzagging after the arrival, basking in his feat, lucky yes, but also the result of his initial overtakes (he had started fifth) on Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher on the track, on Felipe Massa with the strategy and the help of the pits. The Brazilian driver of Ferrari could have been another stronghold, but there came a puncture that threw it all away. It made him anticipate his first pit stop by three laps, putting him behind Nick Heidfeld and making it impossible to avoid the overtake of Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa ended second, Giancarlo Fisichella third, Jenson Button and Kimi Räikkönen, with a spot-on strategy, fourth and fifth. Japan was thrilled with the two Toyotas, brilliant in qualifying, but Jarno Trulli (sixth) and Ralf Schumacher (seventh) were two supporting actors in the race. There is a void behind the two prodigies. The Ferrari engine, precisely one of his most sharp weapons in these years of domination, has decided to betray Michael Schumacher one day. Bitter tango. But the bow to his career remains. 


He laughs, he speaks Italian, and he comforts everyone: Michael Schumacher, after his dramatic retirement, proves to be a great sportsman. 


"Our team is a great one, here there are the best engineers and mechanics that I know. The races are like this, we win together and we lose together. Today, we all tried to win but it went like this, this is Formula 1. In any case, I think that we have to be very proud of the work we have done. In Canada, we were 25 points behind compared to Alonso, but no one ever believed that we could have come back into the championship, and yet we did. Now, we are 9 points behind in the Constructors' World Championship. For me, the Drivers' Championship is over, but we still want to race for the Constructors' one. Today's is not a big disappointment for me: this is life, this is racing. First, we fight for the Constructors' Championship, then for the Drivers' one. But I don't want to think about a race that I have to win and the other one must not finish. I don't like that way of racing, this is not in my spirit".


Luca di Montezemolo, the chairman of Ferrari, tries to motivate him from Modena. 


"Our World Championship will end at the very last metre of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Of course, I am very disappointed about what has happened. I'm particularly sorry for Michael, who was once again doing a perfect race proving to be the best, as well as an extraordinary man. I'm also very sorry for the team who had done nothing wrong. At the beginning of the season, I had said that I wanted a leading Ferrari, and the extraordinary comeback of the last few months, which has seen all our men, of whom I am proud, and our partners work in an exemplary way, unfortunately, suffered a setback today, which has greatly penalised us”. 

Like millions of Italians, he was struck in front of the TV. Michael Schumacher was easily leading the race, he was flying towards a great triumph, at a certain point the smoke showed up from the rear part of his Ferrari. Luca di Montezemolo, like many Tifosi, is swearing. Ferrari's chairman tries to get in touch with Japan, he wants to know. Then, he resigns himself, but the huge pain remains. It is hard to stay calm when bad luck strikes like this. 


"I'm very sorry about what has happened a few laps from the end with Schumacher clearly in the lead, in a race that our champion was dominating. I'm especially sorry for him, as he was having a perfect race, proving once again to be the best, as well as an extraordinary man. I'm also very sorry for the team who had done nothing wrong. At the beginning of the season, I had said that I wanted a leading Ferrari. Our comeback, of which I'm proud, has been extraordinary, our men have committed themselves in an exemplary way. Unfortunately, all our efforts have been met with a bitter setback in Suzuka which has severely penalised us. Ferrari knows how to accept defeats as well as rejoice in triumphs. A day like this one gives us even more motivation for the future: our World Championship will end at the very last metre of the Brazilian Grand Prix. Now, everything is more difficult, but we will never give up".


Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso does not manage to control his happiness after having crossed the finish line of the Japanese Grand Prix first, which for him is worth 99% of the reconquest of the World Championship. 


"At the beginning of the race, we needed a bit of warm-up. I also made some small mistakes, but then we were more competitive, I took some risks, and I tried to accelerate and overtake the cars ahead of me. It was difficult to predict then what happened. It was a stroke of luck for us and bad luck for Ferrari. In the beginning, I went off track a bit when I was behind Ralf but I recovered because I was faster than the Toyota. The gap was always the same with Michael, I thought I could win the race and from that moment onwards it became feasible. It was difficult to think of a mechanical problem for Ferrari. We had problems during the last two or three races. We needed this lucky moment after so much bad luck. It has been a confidence and energy boost for the next race in Brazil".


And Flavio Briatore is also very happy: 


"We did a great race, but they also did. Today, there was a great fight between Alonso and Michael. Ferrari had a great race. There's nothing definitive. Today, we've won, it could happen to them in Brazil".


Giancarlo Fisichella, on the other hand, is sorely tried, distraught over the sudden death of his best friend:

"I dedicate this win to him, a third place for which I gave my all. But it's useless, we're here and he's gone. It seems impossible and crazy to me".


Michael Schumacher, how angry are you with your Ferrari's engine? 


"I'm disappointed, of course, but I'm not angry with anyone, not even with the engine that has broken down". 


But you were in the lead, if you have to say goodbye to your dreams is it because of the team? 


"Are you kidding? I work with a fantastic team, we win together, we lose together. I know my mechanics, everyone, my engineers, I know how much they worked to get me to catch up with Alonso, to make me arrive in Japan on equal points with him, to reopen this World Championship, to give me the opportunity to fight for the title right to the end. I know their efforts, for this reason I wanted to personally thank them all into the pits. I'm happy to have worked in a team like this one. We shouldn't be sad about this retirement, but proud of this great comeback and more in general of the triumphs of all those years". 


The fact remains that Alonso takes home another World Championship. 


"This is F1, we were leading, we were going to achieve an extraordinary result and in one moment it was all over, every dream disappeared. But this does not take anything away from our worth. After Canada, no one believed in our comeback and instead, we've kept the Championship open until the penultimate race". 


Actually, mathematics does not condemn you yet. Alonso is leading by ten points, but if you win in Brazil and he retires, Ferrari would be the team to rejoice. 


"The Drivers' World Championship is over. I have too much experience to understand that even miracles have a limit. And then, by nature, I never pray for the retirement of a rival, I don't like winning like this. In Brazil, I will have my very last race, I'll give the maximum for the Constructors' title. That one is still possible, we're only nine points behind. I don't think about the Drivers' title anymore". 


Would you not be happy if Alonso’s engine also broke down? 


"I've struggled so much in my career, but I've always relied on my own strengths, not on other drivers' misfortunes. I've never started a race hoping that something would go wrong for a rival. And I don't want to start right now". 


Would you rather keep your disappointment? 


"It’s there, I cannot deny it, but it is not so huge. Life and racing are like this. They make you go up and down, and it's these ups and downs that make it all so exciting. A monotonous life is much more boring, it's not for me. You have to accept everything, such disappointments have to be mixed with great emotions. Losing hurts but that’s what makes winning even more beautiful". 


You speak like a philosopher. Would you have reacted the same way ten years ago? 

"I don't know. I know very well that there is a huge amount of work behind it, that my men have worked so hard this summer, that they have been extraordinary, but I also have enough experience to understand that something like this can happen, that an engine can break down, that you have no defence against destiny, you can't do anything". 


But there will not be a next time for you. What wound will this 2006 leave? 


"I will be left with the huge satisfaction of having reopened a World Championship that everyone thought was over halfway through the season. A championship is made of so many races, of so many things, of small details also that all have to work in the right direction. I cannot blame anyone for the engine failure: we have improved so much this summer, working like hell, that it would be unfair to get angry now. I am delighted that we have achieved this. We were leading for thirty-seven laps, we were the best, I'm very satisfied with the car and the team". 


In 249 races, you have retired only 15 times for an engine failure. Is this the most bitter retirement of your career? 


"I had caught up with Alonso, I put things right again, in a championship that many people no longer believed in. It is not the most bitter retirement. It seemed over, but now it's really over". 


What did you think when you saw the smoke behind you? 


"I immediately understood what was happening. I heard a strange noise, never heard before. I warned the pits via radio and told them the engine was gone. The consequences were also immediately clear. I lost the race, ten very heavy points, my triumph became Alonso's. I told myself the same things that I think the people who were in the grandstands or in front of their TVs had imagined. Goodbye dreams. It was beautiful, but all of a sudden it was all over. I fought, I believed in it, it didn't happen. We couldn't do anything more". 


What did you tell the mechanics when you were shaking all these hands? 


"That life goes on, it doesn't end here. And that I will forever cherish having worked with them". 


Think about what could happen if you become World Champion in Brazil. 


"It's a utopia. We focus ourselves on the Constructors' title. And we'll try to give the maximum once again".


In his heart, he is the 2006 champion. Fernando Alonso has a match point, just one point away from the finish line and from the win. An unexpected objective, given the evolution of the latter part of the season for his Renault. There were times when he doubted everything and everyone, but never himself. That is why he celebrated his fifteenth (and decisive) triumph. Congratulations Fernando Alonso: all bets are now off. 


"I think that we have deserved this win for a long time. Since the Hungarian Grand Prix, where we were ready to reap the rewards but we hadn't completed the job". 


However, the best car did not win at Suzuka. 


"Having won is a surprise and the taste of victory is more beautiful. We were the big favourites in China and we ended up losing that race. Here, it happened to Ferrari". 


Well, more has happened in Japan. 


"For sure those ten points are a little present that God has given us". 


Would you have ever said that before the start? 


"No, because we didn’t think we were in good shape. Instead, as the laps went by, things were getting better". 


Let us begin with the start, a kart overtaking. 


"I had to, it was the only thing to be done. I took a risk and I knew the price. But if I had stayed fifth, I would have stayed fifth for the whole Grand Prix". 


What were you aiming for? 

"Having overtaken Trulli, I was thinking of Ralf Schumacher. I thought that, sooner or later, I would have managed to overtake him and get a podium". 


And then? 

"A corner, some smoke". 


What did you think? 


"Instinctively, I braked, it was hard to see. The car seemed reddish, I thought of a Spyker. Slowing down, I realised who was the victim of the crash". 


Michael Schumacher. 


"I cheered: I understood that it was my moment. But there were still many laps to go before the end". 


You actually raised your fist. 


"No malice, I just couldn’t believe my eyes, what I was seeing. You hardly ever see a Ferrari with mechanical troubles and the thought went to mine, of troubles, see Monza, the last one". 


Game over? 


"Not at all. What happened here to Ferrari could happen to us and we could lose everything. You never know what can happen in a race and we need to go to Brazil with the maximum concentration and professionalism". 


Justice is done? 


"Justice comes and goes. A good result does not erase certain facts, certain decisions taken during the year". 


Two weeks of long waiting await you.


"Keeping calm is what matters". 


What will the approach be like? 


"Always the same. Going to São Paulo thinking of beating Ferrari, having the right pressure on you. Not taking anything for granted". 


What will you say to the team? 

"Obviously, we'll be in touch over the next few days. I think it's critical not to make driving mistakes, getting to the finish line". 


You have seventy laps left to go. 


"It's long. It will be long. But I really think that I'll find the motivation, lap after lap. In general, you have to know, it can happen to get bored, to get distracted and to lose focus. I'll try to avoid that, to find reasons and motivations at every pit stop, every lap. Until I reach number seventy". 


What were your thoughts yesterday at the finish line? 


"When you win, you're happy. Here even more so, because it was absolutely unexpectedNever, on the eve of the race, did I think I would win. And it had a greater value here. For me, for the Renault team and the Michelin team. The last four months haven't been very good". 


The watchword between now and October 22? 


"Caution. Well, I think that for once it will be useless to take risks. Surely, it won't happen with my car".


It had been 112 races since Michael Schumacher's engine broke down during a race. The last time was on July 2, 2000, at the French Grand Prix, more than six years ago. On that day, a retirement obviously much less bitter than this one, Michael Schumacher had to give up on lap 58, when he was second behind the McLaren of David Coulthard. But the engine on fire is not only a rarity for the German driver, but for the whole Ferrari team. Overall, the last misadventure of this kind was in 2002, at the Malaysian Grand Prix, with Rubens Barrichello, more than four seasons ago. Nor is mechanical failure common, it had not happened since the third race in 2005, April 3, in Bahrain, when Michael Schumacher stopped for hydraulic system problems. What happened in Suzuka is therefore not only sad but also sensational. Seeing a World Championship fade away because of a Ferrari engine falling into pieces. Leaving the whole glory to Fernando Alonso. The post-race is sad for the Ferrari men. From the premise of a win to a DNF. The word disappointment is profusely used, from Ross Brawn to Jean Todt, the General Manager. 


"We have been in this world for many years not to know how things will turn out, although we won't stop trying". 


For the Ferrari boss, experience helps to accept the verdict. 


"Clearly, we feel a huge disappointment. We paid a high price, too much, in terms of reliability. But we must be good losers: at a Grand Prix from the end this is the reality, and for us, the mission is difficult, almost impossible". 


It is also difficult to find the reasons behind the failure: 


"The engine is very damaged. They are looking, they are investigating, but I don't think we'll manage to find out". 


Nothing had suggested that. 


"Nothing, no warning". 


It was Michael Schumacher, a moment before the TV footage, who gave the information via radio to the team: 


"The engine is gone". 


In fact, mathematics still provides support, but Jean Todt seems to reject it: 


"It must come down to us winning, in the sense of winning on our own. It is not enough in our case, we need to wait for our rivals to have problems. It's not up to us. I feel like I've got a bad indigestion. Time will help us, and the idea that we're going to look back and see the beautiful pages that we have written". 


It is also useless to think about the future: 


"It's not fair to Michael. There's still one race left, then we'll talk about him and about how much we will miss him". 


Right, the German driver: 


"I thought that I had to comfort him, but instead he was the one to comfort all of us. Incredible". 


Michael Schumacher, the very same champion who never gives up, is the first one not to believe in it. And on Monday, October 9, 2006, he repeated:


"It's a utopia". 


However, it was clear from the outset: 


"The Drivers' World Championship is over". 


The German driver now appears resigned, but his submissive attitude must not deceive: that race in Brazil will be his last one and he has confided to his friends that he wants to win it at all costs. His triumph is the first step, necessary, to then see what Fernando Alonso will have done. If he were the victim of a sensational retirement, Michael Schumacher would find himself immersed in the most unexpected celebration of his history. Not to mention that Ferrari at least hopes for the victory of the Constructors' World Championship. Even in this case, the feat is tough, it takes a first and a second place in the hope that Renault will not go beyond the third and the sixth place. But Luca Montezemolo is clear about this, woe betide giving up. And woe to talk about the future already, even if the new era (not only at the driver level) has already begun, with the resignation of Rory Byrne (Aldo Costa and Nicholas Tombazis have taken his place) and Ross Brawn (Luca Baldisserri will be the strategist on track) and perhaps a more delicate role for Jean Todt, with the promotion to the front line of Stefano Domenicali, the current Sporting Director. In all cases, such an ending has not been seen for some time: in 57 years of Formula 1 only two other times there were drivers matched in the standings at the penultimate race of the World Championship. And the nervous tension that characterised this championship finale spilled over onto the track where lap after lap the two champions studied, controlled and kept an eye on each other. Which in the jargon of F1 means racing constantly watching the times of the rival and then fighting back - pushing to the maximum - in order not to leave any advantage to the antagonist. So, rendez-vous in Brazil: the 2006 World Champion will only be known at the end of the last race. Even if there are some ideas by now. Alonso would also only need an eighth place to win his second World Championship, in case Michael Schumacher managed to win the race. While the German would have to win the race and hope for Fernando Alonso to retire to win the championship. You decide which one will be the big favourite…


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