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    James Allen's verdict On the Japanese GP

    I can't believe it
    MS has his first engine failure since the French Grand Prix in 2000, and this was the first Ferrari engine failure since Indianapolis 2001. And it had to come now....

    I think Alonso deserved to win the championship last year, but after his whining in the press this year and calling MS the most unsporting in the history of F1 is stretching it a bit too far IMO, and my "feelings" for Alonso has chilled considerably. And now he's going to win the championship because of Ferraris first engine failure in 5 years....

    The only positive thing in all this (for me) is that Alonso is moving to McLaren next year. This season is will be the first in 10 years that McLaren haven't won a race, and I hope they have started a trend..... Also we will have a Nordic driver in a Ferrari next year - GO KIMI!!!

    Anyway, it was good to get that off my chest, here's ITV commentator James Allen's view of the race, right on the money as usual IMO:

    Since it came on to the Formula 1 calender 20 years ago, Suzuka has always provided drama and excitement and so it remained to the last.

    ITV-F1 commentator James Allen looks back at the great circuit's final race and describes how it gave us one last twist as the fire in Michael Schumacher's championship challenge was all but snuffed out.

    I really enjoyed this race, the last at Suzuka for a while and certainly right up with some of the most dramatic races we have seen here.

    For me it summed up this 2006 world championship; it had excellence from Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher, the best unpredictable aspects of a tyre war and dramatic reversals of fortune.

    And it showed that Alonso truly is the heir to Schumacher because, like the German and unlike most other racing drivers, Alonso never, ever gives up.

    Shell shock

    It is hard to overstate how shell shocked the Renault/Michelin camp was after qualifying.

    The Bridgestone tyre had the biggest performance advantage over them we have seen all year - 1.4s a lap.

    Because there was virtually no dry running on Friday and only limited running on Saturday morning, nobody had a good handle on what the tyres would do over a 20 lap stint in the race.

    But having been humiliated in qualifying, Michelin were not massively optimistic for the race.

    Michelin were using a new tyre, based on tests at Silverstone, which is considered the track most similar to Suzuka in terms of tyre performance.

    At the most recent Silverstone test, where Lewis Hamilton made his F1 debut, Michelin looked really fast on the Renault and the French outfit were very optimistic for Suzuka.

    Bridgestone on the other hand, had used new thinking and brought the tyre they used to win the Turkish GP.

    If you remember, they had a massive advantage in Istanbul on the first lap in qualifying and the tyres had held up well in the race, but Michelin were right with them on pace.

    And it turned out the same way this weekend.

    In qualifying the tyre simply took off once the track temperature reached 30 degrees.

    On race day it hovered around 26 degrees and chilled down to about 22 degrees when the race started, which brought the conditions back towards Michelin and Fernando.

    Make no mistake, though, Bridgestone did an excellent job, if you look at the performance of the Toyotas this weekend, which have been pretty pathetic all season, here they were very competitive.

    How the world has changed

    Felipe Massa did the honourable thing on the second lap and lifted off across the straight to let the Great One past.

    This seemed to demotivate Massa a bit and although he had a problem with a puncture, which brought forward his first stop, he never looked particularly sharp after that.

    Meanwhile, Schumacher could not get away from Alonso in the latter part of the opening stint and his five second lead at the midway stage of the race, was simply the margin he had opened out in the first few laps as Alonso got held up behind Ralf and Massa.

    Once clear of them he slowly chiselled away at Schuey's lead.

    At this point he started to sniff the chance of victory.

    he cards were still stacked in Michael's favour as he had three new sets of tyres and had more fuel in his car, which meant he could run longer before pitting in the first two stints.

    With Alonso having no new tyres available to him for the second and third stints, he would not have that 1.5s injection of pace which a new set gives after each of his stops.

    So Michael with a light car should be able to build a cushion before his stops and then take the benefit of his new tyres to stay ahead at all times.

    But Alonso and his strategists Pat Symonds and Rod Nelson, managed to work it so that he pitted just one lap before Michael for the final stop and he was close enough to trouble the German as he emerged from the pit lane.

    Eye witnesses at Turn 3 say that when Schuey went past them the engine suddenly started rasping.

    By the time he reached the Degner corner, there was a plume of white smoke and we were looking at the first Ferrari engine failure in a race since the summer of 2001.

    The world was a different place then, it was before 9/11, before Iraq, before Abramovitch bought Chelsea FC.

    And what a time for it to happen!

    Gracious in defeat

    Schumacher was on a run of 13 consecutive points finishes and it proved very unlucky indeed for him.

    He was magnanimous in defeat, shaking hands with all of his mechanics, some of whom were in tears.

    They tried hard this year and they may yet succeed in Brazil if we get a reversal of what happened here, but you'd have to say that it is pretty unlikely.

    A third and a fourth place for Renault in Brazil will give them both championships for the second year in a row.

    Supporting cast

    A word for Jenson Button and Kimi Raikkonen, both of whom did a great job today. Jenson was massively consistent, very strong and delivered a really terrific fourth place from seventh on the grid.

    If Honda can give him a good car next season, he is ready to win races and try to string a championship together.

    Kimi Raikkonen is due a world championship and next year's should be his for the taking as Ferrari have such a head start on the Bridgestone tyres that all teams will use next year.

    Even without Ross Brawn, they should maintain the momentum of this season and Kimi will be hungry to succeed.

    I also think that BMW will be a regular on the podiums and that Red Bull should take a big step forward.

    Renault will slide back inevitably as they feel the loss of Alonso, while conversely McLaren will benefit from his arrival, but it is anyone's guess whether their new car will be any good as their new cars of the last few years have been so erratic, some poor, some brilliant.

    The final curtain

    But we get ahead of ourselves. Brazil is next.

    It will be Schumacher's 250th and last Grand Prix, the end of an era and in many ways a sad moment for all of us who have followed or covered his career these past 16 years.

    I'm delighted that he is going out at the very top, but I think that if Alonso does win the title, then it will be immeasurably good for the sport as we will have a double world champion, a proven Schumacher-beater, in other words an ultra-high calibre driver, to lead us into a new era of F1.

    Re: James Allen's verdict On the Japanese GP

    Every one it is giving the title to Alonso, but even if every thing looks so promising for him, let's not forget that there is still a race and in my opinion there are still possibility for the things to go around... so before anything I will still be cautious. As James Allen says great both drivers.... and a really heart stopping final for the championship!!! Lets see what Brazil is going to bring us!!!

    Re: James Allen's verdict On the Japanese GP

    This picture says it all really:

    Re: James Allen's verdict On the Japanese GP

    If Kubica wasn't disqualified in Hungary Alonso would already be champion.

    I honestly don't think that Alonso was the luckiest in this season...

    Re: James Allen's verdict On the Japanese GP

    At least not in the second half.

    Re: James Allen's verdict On the Japanese GP

    James Allen's comments are right on as usual.



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