The edginess that accompanies any world title decider hung in the overcast air of Interlagos yesterday, as the two protagonists at its epicentre did their best to conduct business in the usual way. The one with the major advantage - the Japanese Grand Prix winner Fernando Alonso with his 10-point cushion, of course - insists that it is not over. The one with the mountain to climb - Michael Schumacher, who has to win with Alonso not scoring - insists that it is.
By Sunday evening one of them will have been proved right, but it is just too close to call now, when all it takes for Alonso to lose is the sort of engine failure that felled Schumacher in Japan (or, indeed, Alonso himself in Italy), an untimely spin, a collision with another hungry rival - assuming Schumacher wins.
Neither Alonso nor Schumacher, nor their team-mates Giancarlo Fisichella and Felipe Massa, the other potential winners, was in the thick of things in practice yesterday, the German sixth, the Spaniard 10th. It is today that matters.
"When you have the chance to become champion, you always have the pressure, the motivation and the dream is close to being realised again," Alonso said. "Last year, for sure, I had three opportunities: here, China and Japan and this year it's only the last race. For sure, you cannot lose this opportunity as I was able to lose the opportunity here last year. I am ready, and we arrive in a good position thanks to the Japanese result."
Alonso, who recently accused Renault of only caring about the constructors' championship, then conceded that he can afford to be cautious. "To be honest, for me the important thing is the drivers' championship, not only for me, for everybody. We see all the publicity on the motorways, everywhere from China onwards. I think we only see Michael's and Alonso's face on the pictures. You don't see the logo of Ferrari and Renault."
Schumacher, meanwhile, was wearing his team face. "I am not coming here this weekend to think too much about my own title," he said. "I am coming here for the constructors' title. I have expressed after the Suzuka race that the title fight for the drivers' championship is finished. I don't want to build up my hopes on someone retiring. So I am here to do a good race and try to win.
"From our point of view we can only do the maximum job to be one and two at the end of the race and then we have to see what the others can do, and if that is enough for us to win the constructors' championship or not."
Alonso was asked about special talismans, but merely pointed tellingly to the sky. However, he said that, whatever happens tomorrow afternoon, he will remember Brazil 2006.
"It will become special for sure if this Sunday I win; to win two titles in Brazil will be special. And if I lose the championship it will be special as well because it will be a very bad memory, because with 10 points if you lose the championship in the last race it will be difficult to forget anyway."
Schumacher will also remember this one, regardless of the outcome. Sunday will be his 249th and last grand prix, win, lose or draw. Perhaps that is when the emotion will overtake him, if anything in Interlagos can.
"I am not thinking so much about it," he admitted. "Occasionally it comes up and you feel a bit strange about it, but in general I am pretty relaxed and it is pretty much business as usual so far."Reuse content