Suzuka's spectacular farewell

Final outing for controversial circuit with a flair for drama

The world knows that Michael Schumacher, who seems increasingly likely to wear the world champion's crown this year, is heading into retirement at the end of what has been a gripping season.

Less well known is that the Suzuka circuit is also bowing out after a 20-year spell as the home of the Japanese Grand Prix. Politics will see the Honda-owned facility dumped next year in place of yet another anodyne venue, the Toyota-owned Fuji speedway.

So many times this wonderful, demanding track, with its Scalextric crossover and its mind-blowing Esses, Spoon Curve and spectacular corners, has been home to controversy and acrimony. Who could ever forget the famous collision between McLaren team-mates Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna at the chicane in 1989, and the frustrated majesty of Senna's comeback to a victory subsequently denied him by the FIA? Or the calculated and cold-blooded manner in which the still-angry Brazilian barged Prost's Ferrari off the road a year later, and thus won his second championship sitting in the gravel bed at the first corner? Or Senna punching upstart rookie Eddie Irvine? Or the race of Damon Hill's life when he beat Schumacher in the rain? Or last year, a cliff-hanger of epic proportions with title aspirant Kimi Raikkonen snatching victory on the penultimate lap from Giancarlo Fisichella, as Fernando Alonso staged a fabulous comeback drive to third place?

The drivers love the track, which is curious given that some talked of boycotts at Monza because of one corner and yet here there are several places in which safety levels fall short. "We put up with it because we know we aren't coming back," one said, but it was an unsatisfactory answer that did not explain the paradox.

"It's very technical, espec-ially through turns two to eight, and we don't have as much torque now with the V8s, but those corners are just crazy and it is non-stop," Jenson Button said. "You need mentally to be pretty strong. It's a fabulous track. I love it."

Whether Fernando Alonso feels that way when things are over this afternoon is a moot point, but wherever the Japanese GP is held next year Button believes he himself will be a serious contender for the championship crown.

"It really doesn't matter to me if I win when Michael has retired," the 26-year-old Englishman said. "I just want to win the championship. The real advantage of our new wind tunnel will come for 2007.

"There are other areas where we are weak, and we know what they are. We started 2006 quite well, but just didn't improve at the same rate as Ferrari, Renault and McLaren. But we pulled through.

"We will be the only top- four team who won't have at least one major change. Renault will have Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen after losing Alonso; Ferrari lose Michael and get Kimi; McLaren lose Kimi and get Fernando. We will be able to hit the ground running, and we need to destroy them. We are preparing for a world championship run."

Button conceded that he had gone into this season with similar hopes. "I thought we would be in a strong position in 2006 and it didn't turn out that way," he said.

Perhaps events in the race will provoke similar sentiments in the beleaguered Fernando Alonso. Bridgestone's towering superiority in tyres metaphorically made him drive with one hand tied behind his back during qualifying, and his disenchantment with his sport was exacerbated by Ferrari's tactics in apparently having Felipe Massa bottle him up early in the final session when rain seemed possible.

Renault's chief, Flavio Briatore, slammed Massa and threatened to complain to the race director, Charlie Whiting, who reported Alonso's alleged impeding of Massa to the stewards at Monza in September.

"Today we will tell Charlie, but nothing will happen," Briatore stormed. "We already know what the answer will be. Fernando on the radio was complaining. If you are fighting with McLaren it is fine, if you fight with these guys [Ferrari] it is impossible."

Controversy and Suzuka, hand in hand to the end.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
filmDirector said film would 'never have been financed' with ethnic minority actors in key roles
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
film
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?