Schuey exit promises many twists and turns

Ferrari on pole but it's Massa not Michael

So, who is the man under the greatest pressure in Interlagos this weekend? Michael Schumacher, who starts only 10th and must battle through to win with Fernando Alonso failing to score if he is to retire with an eighth world championship? No.

The German has all but conceded (well, publicly, at any rate) that his chances are slim to non-existent. Even so, the speed of the Ferrari all weekend suggests that he can still win. Fernando Alonso, then, the man who needs only one more point even if Schumacher does manage to win on his 249th and final attempt, and who therefore has to pray for a hyper-reliable Renault and who must steer clear of trouble? No, again.

It's actually Giancarlo Fisichella. If Renault's supposedly joint number one driver wins, it's all over for Schumacher no matter whether Alonso finishes or not. But can Fisichella, sixth on the grid, beat the Ferraris? At worst, Renault need 10 more points in the constructors' championship to frustrate Ferrari. Assuming that Alonso were to finish only eighth for the point he needs, that means Fisichella has to beat the Ferraris, given the points scoring system of 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 for first down to eighth place.

In doing so, he would enable his team-mate to drive a cautious race, staying out of trouble. If Alonso does better than eighth, of course, say fourth which is where he will start, with Fisichella third, a one-two for Ferrari would bring them from 186 to 204 points, while Renault would garner 11 to add to their 195. Game, set et match, ne c'est pas?

The problem is that Fisichella has Felipe Massa, Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno Trulli, Alonso and Rubens Barrichello ahead of him on the grid. Of them all, Massa will be tough to beat.

Much will depend how the charismatic little Brazilian, a revelation as Schumacher's team-mate at Ferrari this year to all but those who bothered to watch him carefully when he was at Sauber, plays the game. He would love to win at home, but to help Schumacher he will really need to bottle everyone up so that Michael has the chance to catch up.

And what if the game were not to be played by the Queensberry Rules? Schumacher, of course, has a reputation for ruthlessness that he will never live down. Ask Damon Hill.

Or Jacques Villeneuve. Respectively they were on the receiving end of his tactics in Adelaide in 1994, and Jerez in 1997. The first occasion won Schumacher his first title when, after his own unforced error had taken him into a wall, he then drove Hill off the road to ensure that his own points tally could not be beaten.

The second, when he turned into the French-Canadian as the latter dived inside him into the first corner to take the lead, saw him slither haplessly into a gravel bed, retirement, and a second place in the title chase that the FIA subsequently annulled.

Until his Ferrari crept slowly round the opening lap of the final qualifying session and then headed for the pits where it remained with a mechanical problem, he could have afforded to keep his hands clean, and at one stage people wondered instead what would happen if Massa were to tangle with Alonso? The Brazilian is not that sort of driver, but there will be a lot of pressure this afternoon in this high stakes game.

But now that Schumacher must chase Alonso, from the fifth row of the grid, anything can happen. He came here saying he does not want to win a title which depends on a rival retiring. Very laudable, if a trifle hollow based on past events.

But perhaps things have changed after his latest misfortune. Alonso, meanwhile, knows it is not over yet and is not the type to go into cruise mode.

And there's more. Not to speak ill of the retiring, but other drivers have their enthusiasm for Schumacher under firm control. At one stage this weekend there were suggestions that a few of them, anxious to see a fair and even contest without any underhand tactics, were of a mind to indulge in a bit of tit-for-tat if they were to discover that Massa had taken Alonso out, and might make things difficult for the outgoing Schumacher.

And you thought that Formula One is all about wing angles and tyre compounds. What would be fitting would be for Schumacher to fight through and bow out gracefully with a 92nd victory that would combine the scores of Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

And for natural justice to see Alonso get his point and retain his crown as the curtain comes down on one of the most dramatic eras in the sport's rich history. As we saw in Suzuka, however, Formula One is not always predictable.

Drive times: The highs and lows of a long bumpy road


Kart King

Schumacher won his first title at the age of six, becoming the junior champion at the Graf Berghe von Trips go-kart track at Kerpen driving a machine built from tenth-hand parts by his bricklayer father.

Spa Treatment

At 22 he made his Formula One debut at Spa in a one-off drive for Jordan in 1991. Qualifying seventh, he lasted less than a lap after his clutch exploded. A year later at the same track he won his first GP, driving for Benetton and finishing third in that year's championship.

Italian Jobs

After two titles with Benetton (1994-95) he took a gamble by moving to Ferrari, titleless since 1979. Won five consecutive championships (2000-04), beating Juan Fangio's record of four.

Winning By Numbers

Schumacher has not so much set records as smashed them:

Seven titles (previous best: Fangio, five); 91 GP wins (Alain Prost, 51); 154 podiums (Prost, 106); 1,354 championship points (Prost, 798.5); 13 wins, 2004; 11 wins, 2002 (from 18 races; Nigel Mansell won nine out of 16 in 1992).

Charitable Outlook

Generous with his money, he donated $10m to the tsunami fund after one of his bodyguards died in the disaster, and enjoys playing football in charity matches.


Good Driver, Bad Sport?

In 1994, leading the championship from Damon Hill by one point going into the final race, Schumacher collided with Hill in the Australian GP, some say intentionally, and took the title when both cars had to retire. In 1997, when again a win for either driver would have given them the championship, he collided with Jacques Villeneuve in the European GP. This time, the stewards stripped him of all his season's points.

Hairpin Spin

Leading qualifying for this year's Monaco GP, he stalled at the Rascasse hairpin, preventing other drivers from bettering his time. The stewards decided this was deliberate and he had to start the race from the back of the grid, but he still finished fifth.

No Time For The No 2?

Praised for working closely with management and mechanics, he is accused of being distant and unhelpful to driving colleagues. Johnny Herbert at Benetton in particular complained about this.

National Distrust

Not his fault, but well, he's foreign, and German to boot. Not Britons' favourite sporting race, Boris Becker apart.

Simon Redfern

peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Salisbury ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities

The city is home to one of the four surviving copies of the Magna Carta, along with the world’s oldest mechanical clock
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album