Alonso and Schumacher duel to finish

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The Independent Online

The body language between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher after the Turkish Grand Prix told you all you needed to know about their relationship.

Alonso hugged the race winner Felipe Massa, congratulating the 25-year-old Brazilian on his maiden win in Istanbul on Sunday, but there was not even a glance in Schumacher's direction, let alone a congratulatory handshake after their 15-lap battle had kept even cynical journalists on the edge of their seats.

Their enmity, which started when Schumacher edged Alonso on to the grass at Silverstone at 190mph in 2003 and has been fuelled by other events this season, is one of the most entertaining things to have happened in Formula One for a while, lending an edge to their fight for the title. It is reminiscent of the animosity between Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna that spiced up the late Eighties and early Nineties.

With four races left, Schumacher is trailing by 12 points with 40 up for grabs. Alonso could win even if he finishes second to Schumacher in each race, but Istanbul showed how clearly the Spaniard wants to retain his crown by fighting every inch of the way.

Fans, who had been treated to a fabulous display of racing between two high-calibre drivers earlier in the day, as Lewis Hamilton fought his way up from 16th to second in the GP2 after battling wheel-to-wheel for much of the time with the underrated German Timo Glock, held their breath as the main title protagonists slugged it out. To their credit, Alonso and Schumacher were as clean as Hamilton and Glock had been, though they did not manage to change places several times as those two had.

What once seemed a runaway success for Alonso has been turned into one of the most gripping seasons, quite literally. Both men acknowledge that everything will turn on the effectiveness of the tyre manufacturers, Michelin at Renault, Bridgestone at Ferrari.

"I think every weekend is a new challenge and we need to do the maximum," Alonso said. "If I hadn't had the problem in Hungary with the tyre, probably we are talking about 22 points, which is quite good with four races to go. I think you can increase the gap or lose everything in these races. This week we did it, we got in front of one of the Ferraris."

For his part, Schumacher refuses to give up the hope that he can still win an eighth crown. "Felipe and myself are very strong," the German said. "If we can maintain that then you can calculate yourself what that means."