This year’s Japanese Grand Prix left be absolutely floored. To think how boring this season started off being. Fernando Alonso totally dominated the first half of the season. Up until Canada (round 9) Alonso had finished either first or second in every single race, including a run of four back-to-back victories. His championship lead was 25 points, and it looked as though it was in the bag.
And then it all came crashing down. The resurgent Ferrari took advantage of Renault’s various mishaps. Infact, until today Alonso hadn’t won a race since Canada. It’s incredible how much this season has turned around. This morning all of the momentum was with Ferrari. That 25 point gap had been whittled down to zero, and Michael Schumacher had won more races than Alonso.
One (admittedly unlikely) possibility was for Schumacher to have actually won the championship today. To do that he needed to win the race and he needed Alonso to retire. But the reverse happened: Michael Schumacher — in the lead, with just 17 laps to go — retired with an engine failure. Alonso went on to win the race.
It’s so unusual. Ferrari’s reliability is usually bullet proof. But today we saw Michael Schumacher’s first engine failure in five years. What a time to have it! And it was truly unbelievable to watch. How many insects flew into my mouth while my jaw was on the floor?
It is difficult to express just how unpredictable the back end of this season has been. At the last race in China it looked as though Renault had it sewn up, but Schumacher was able to drive a fantastic race against all the odds. Today it looked as though Ferrari had all of the momentum — and they did, but only until Schumi’s engine expired.
With just one race to go, it effectively puts the World Championship out of Michael Schumacher’s reach. He can still win the championship, but only if there is another spectacular reversal and Schumacher wins in Brazil while Alonso fails to score. Schumacher has already effectively conceded defeat saying that he doesn’t want to go to Brazil effectively pinning his hopes on an Alonso retirement. But given the way this championship has turned out, it might not be such an unlikely situation!
Unfortunately, not an awful lot else happened during the race. Christijan Albers had one of the scariest car failures I’ve ever seen. And there were a few driver errors — notably from Liuzzi, Speed, Webber and Kubica — but that is to be expected on a circuit as challenging as Suzuka. It’s the last time, for the moment at least, that F1 will be paying a visit to one of the greatest circuits in the world. What an absolute scandal. Somebody needs to give Bernie and Max a clue.