Alonso retains title; Schumi retires

Sao Paulo, October 23:

Fernando Alonso was virtually assured of his second Formula One championship barely 15 minutes into the Brazilian Grand Prix. He didn’t know why his team was asking him to turn down the power of his engine so early in Sunday’s race. Then he soon found out. His only rival for the world title, Michael Schumacher, punctured a tire and dropped to last.

Alonso retained the championship when he was second to Felipe Massa in the season finale which also marked the end of Schumacher’s mighty career. Schumacher, a seven-time F1 champion, needed to win his final race before retirement to keep alive his remote chance of another title. But the German punctured a tire less than 10 laps in, dropped out of contention, and drove well to salvage fourth.

Massa, Schumacher’s Ferrari teammate, won the race from the pole before an adoring home crowd at the Interlagos circuit. His second career victory was also the first by a Brazilian here since Ayrton Senna in 1993. Honda’s Jenson Button was third.

As soon as Alonso crossed the finish line, the Spaniard thanked his crew over the radio in French (Renault’s engines are built in France) and English (the team is based in Britain). He helped Renault also clinch the constructors’ title but will race for McLaren next year. Alonso became F1’s youngest world champion at last year’s Brazilian GP, and the 25-year-old continued to praise Renault, which gave him a start as a test driver in 2002.

Schumacher tied Alonso in the standings after winning the Chinese GP on October 1, but Alonso replied by winning the Japanese GP and virtually clinched the title. He topped Schumacher by 134 to 121.

In Spain, a crowd of 6,000 poured into the streets of Oviedo, his hometown.

People danced in the Plaza de America square and splashed in a fountain, Oviedo’s traditional gathering place for triumphant sports moments. Many fans, wearing the blue-and-yellow colours of Renault, chanted, “Champion Alonso.”