F1: Michael thriller steals plaudits

Fernando Alonso joined a list of legends in becoming only the eighth driver in Formula One history to win successive titles, writes Ian Parkes.

Fernando Alonso joined a list of legends in becoming only the eighth driver in Formula One history to win successive titles, writes Ian Parkes.

Alonso drove a steady, flawless Brazilian Grand Prix, finishing second at the end of an enthralling 71 laps at Interlagos where Michael Schumacher headed into retirement after a heroic display.

A left-rear puncture was hardly a fitting way for Schumacher to end his glorious 16-year career at the pinnacle of motorsport.

But that is effectively what cost him a shot at victory in the 249th - and last - Grand Prix for the seven-times champion.

When Schumacher suffered a fuel pressure failure at the start of `Super Pole' qualifying on Saturday, it left him 10th on the grid.

But by the end of the first lap, and with the field cleanly through the tricky first part of the circuit - the Senna S - Schumacher had moved up three places to seventh. A collision between Williams duo Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg resulted in the deployment of the safety car.

Moments before that, Schuamcher had taken Rubens Barrichello in his Honda to claim sixth, leaving him with Alonso and Renault team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella in his sights.

After four laps behind the safety car, to clear the debris left behind by Rosberg's shattered Williams, Schumacher then started to attack Fisichella.

By the end of lap eight and at the start of lap nine he produced a classic overtaking manoeuvre, proof he still has what it takes.

Passing Fisichella on the outside down the pit straight, he then headed into the Senna S, but as he did so it appeared as if the right front of Fisichella's nose clipped the wall of Schumacher's left-rear tyre.

As he struggled to hold his line, Fisichella soon grabbed back fifth place, while Schumacher - tyre shredding - limped to the pits for fresh rubber and a tank full of fuel.

When he re-emerged, he was 20th and last, and at that stage facing a fight just to get into the points.

What followed was a typical masterclass as he cut his way through the field, and by the time he pitted again at the end of lap 46 he had managed to claw his way up to sixth. Nine laps from the finish, Schumacher was up to Fisichella for the second time in the race - and again looking to take fifth.

Sheer pressure from Schumacher forced Fisichella into a mistake at the start of lap 62.

The Italian braked too late into the Senna S and running across the grass, allowed the German to easily pass.

The McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen was next in his sights, and in a breathtaking manoeuvre he captured fourth, passing the Finn on the inside of the Senna S as they ran wheel to wheel.

It was exhilarating stuff and, although by the end it was not enough, Schumacher had thrilled the masses.

Up ahead, Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa was never headed as he became the first Brazilian to win his home race since the late, great Ayrton Senna in 1993, sparking frenzied scenes all around the circuit.

Alonso, who will be driving for McLaren next season, did all that was required of him as he comfortably claimed the runners-up spot to finish 13 points clear of Schumacher.

The 25-year-old now joins Schumacher, Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Alain Prost, Jack Brabham, Juan Manuel Fangio and Alberto Ascari in becoming a back-to-back championship winner - and at 25 he is the youngest to boot.

With Fisichella winding up sixth, it was enough for Renault to win the constructors' championship by five points from Ferrari.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer