By Ollie Barstow

In a season of two halves that has seen Fernando Alonso dominate the first part of the year and Michael Schumacher hit back in the second, it is appropriate the duo go to the penultimate round of the season well and truly neck and neck.

Not that the two have much time to get used to their level status as the F1 circus skips across from China and onto the legendary Suzuka circuit in little over a week for what could the final time and the Japanese Grand Prix, the scene of many a title decider in the past.

Although Michael Schumacher will need to win and Fernando Alonso to retire to lift the crown in front of the Japanese fans for the final time, the race is undoubtedly going to give one of the drivers the advantage heading into the final round of the season at Brazil.

Indeed, Suzuka could not have chosen a more tantalising tussle to impress the tens of thousands of passionate fans who will travel to the circuit for possibly the last time, following the announcement earlier in the season that the Japanese Grand Prix will be switching to Fuji from next season.

Whether or not Suzuka returns under a different moniker remains to be seen, but while most eyes will be on the finely balanced title battle, it is likely that many a driver will shed a wry tear to see another one of the last true drivers circuits disappear from the calendar...

FIA F1 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP NEWS:

With only a week between the races in China and Japan, the significant news in the world of F1 surrounded the Spyker MF1 team, who have confirmed a deal with Ferrari for engines next season and have also retained the services of Christijan Albers for another season, to no-ones great surprise.

Also in the driver market, Sir Frank Williams has backed Lewis Hamilton to make the step into an F1 race seat next season, saying that he wouldn't hesitate to give the young Brit the second seat at McLaren if he was in Ron Dennis' shoes, while Anthony Davidson could finally earn a place on the F1 grid - with speculation suggesting he could be named as partner to Takuma Sato at Super Aguri for the 2007 season as early as this weekend.

Meanwhile, as the relationship draws to a close, Spanish newspaper reports suggest that Fernando Alonso feels that some members of the Renault team wouldn't be too upset if he didn't beat Michael Schumacher to the drivers' crown, comments the team have moved quickly to deny.

NEWS FROM THE TEAMS:
Renault - Fernando Alonso (#1), Giancarlo Fisichella (#2):

For Renault, losing the Chinese Grand Prix was a bitter blow in their quest to retain both the driver and constructor titles this season - even more so because it was a race they knew they could and should have won.

Indeed, with Michael Schumacher and Ferrari both on the back foot after qualifying, this should have been an easy win for Fernando Alonso and Renault, but of course circumstances eventually told a different story, even if it was a plot the team could have prevented.

Still, there are positives to draw from Shanghai. Alonso was arguably the quicker driver on the day for the first time since Canada and were it not for the tyre dramas, he would have been the comfortable winner.

However, the tyre dramas happened and Alonso is not in the lead of the championship standings for the first time since the 2005 Australian Grand Prix. Forever positive though, Alonso is confident ahead of Suzuka, a track he has always been quick on, even if the results aren't so compelling, his best result being third last year.

"First of all, I think the people wanted a close championship this year - and they've got it. The performance between both cars is very similar, so the last races will be dominated by the tyres.

"Michelin have done a great job in Suzuka for the past couple of years, and I have a good feeling. But we are confident at Renault, and they are confident at Ferrari. So let's see what happens.

"It is one of my favourites. For a driver, it is a very demanding track, very challenging physically and a tough race. It is one of those races that every driver wants to win - and I haven't done it yet."

Back on the podium for the first time since Canada, Giancarlo Fisichella is back up to third place in the drivers' standings and helped put Renault back in the lead of the constructors' standings, albeit by only a single point.

However, the Italian is likely to face a test of nerve as he returns to the circuit where he dramatically lost victory on the final lap last season.

Nonetheless, Suzuka remains one of his favourite circuits and he is planning on going one better this time to get over the disappointment of last season.

"It is one of the circuits I really appreciate. I have a big fan club over there which makes the atmosphere nice, but from a technical point of view, this is one of the hardest tracks physically and mentally. It is a fantastic challenge. I want to improve on second this year, with a win."

McLaren - Kimi Raikkonen (#3), Pedro de la Rosa (#4):

Arguably missing out on victory in China when Kimi Raikkonen suffered yet more mechanical problems, McLaren head to Japan and to the scene of one of its greatest triumphs from last season, when the Finn pulled off a stunning back- to-front drive to claim a last lap victory.

Classed as one of the finest drives in one of the sport's modern classic races, Raikkonen indicated exactly what he can do in a race winning car, something that no doubt lured Ferrari to him, although it remains to be seen whether the MP4-21 really is a car capable of winning.

Indeed, McLaren are facing their first season in a decade in which they don't claim a win, but if either Raikkonen or Pedro de la Rosa are able to end their drought in what has been an ultimately disappointing season for the team, Suzuka couldn't be a better place for them.

Indeed, Raikkonen is looking forward to returning to Japan in light of the victory he claimed on the final lap last year when he swept round the outside of Giancarlo Fisichella into turn one, while the pace of his car in China also fills him with the confidence to take on Renault and Ferrari.

"We demonstrated the competitiveness of the MP4-21 over the weekend of the Chinese Grand Prix and it was clear that the speed was there, despite my retirement from second place which was disappointing for everyone. This level should carry through to the Grand Prix in Japan at Suzuka, which is really great to drive, and there is no reason why we should not be competing at the front again."

de la Rosa meanwhile is happy to be returning to Japan to race for the first time in several years, not least because he built up his career racing there in lower formulas.

"Despite a difficult race in China, where I finished fifth in the wet conditions, the pace of the car felt really good all weekend and I see no reason why this package will not continue to be strong in Japan. Suzuka is without a doubt my favourite track we race on in Formula 1 and it is truly unique. I competed in Japan for three years before I moved to Formula 1 and I have some great memories that I am hoping to add to this weekend!"

Ferrari - Michael Schumacher (#5), Felipe Massa (#6):

If Schumacher had chosen a circuit that he could eliminate from the calendar then Shanghai was probably it - until he won of course. Although arguably not the fastest driver on the day, Schumacher was once again ready and waiting when Fernando Alonso slipped up and as a result he has eked into the championship lead at a crucial stage.

If China was the circuit he would probably eliminate from the calendar, then Suzuka is arguably the one he would choose to extend that title advantage. After all, he has won there six times.

And a seventh - and final - win at the Japanese circuit could not be closer to his grasp, while it would be appropriate that Suzuka's swansong race was won by its most successful visitor.

"To be in Japan with an even and promising result in the classification is something that we could not even dream of in Canada, when we were 25 points behind. Now the championships start anew from zero. And you cannot wish for more. It will be a fantastic battle, something really exciting."

"There is no better way to enter into the end of the season with two races to go than a victory. Two decisive races in the battle of the championship are still to go, but a victory like that counts twice. Obviously this success has given us all even more spur.

"On Saturday it looked as if everything was against us, but in the end we could gain this dreamlike result. That was the reason why I was in such a good mood on Sunday; after all the difficulties during the qualifying I didn't hope to win, but instead I thought how to limit the damage."

Having seen his run of points come to a sudden end in Italy, Felipe Massa came away from China now back behind Giancarlo Fisichella in the points after struggling to come back from an engine change in Friday practice.

Regardless though, Massa never looked entirely comfortable in the wet, just as he did in Hungary, and although a clash with David Coulthard was the reason for him failing to take at least a point away from China, the Brazilian is undoubtedly hoping for a dry weekend in Japan.

Toyota - Ralf Schumacher (#7), Jarno Trulli (#8):

If one team is not so sad to be bidding farewell to Suzuka come Sunday, then it will be Toyota as it is their money and development that has lured Bernie Ecclestone to their own Fuji circuit.

Completing a deal they have been chasing since their entered Formula to host the Japanese Grand Prix, Toyota are looking forward to having an upper hand next season, even if both Ralf Schumacher and Jarno Trulli admit they are personally sad to see Suzuka off the calendar.

Indeed, Schumacher is particularly upset to be leaving Suzuka as he classes it as his favourite circuit, while he also has a strong record there, including last year when he took pole position and claimed a second place result in 2004.

"It is now over ten years since I first drove a car around Suzuka. During my year racing in the Japanese F3000 championship I grew to learn the circuit very well and it is still my favourite track on the calendar.

"It has every type of corner and makes for an excellent driving challenge. There are many important sections on the track, notably the first sector up to and including the famous Esses. Of course I will be sad to see Suzuka go from the calendar, but I'm also looking forward to racing at Toyota's home track at Fuji next season."

Japan is very special to Trulli too as it was here that he made his debut for Toyota in 2004 and after a disappointing outing in China where both drivers struggled in a wet qualifying and the damp race on the way to an eventual double retirement, he is eager to put on a good show for his fans.

"The Japanese Grand Prix is obviously a very important event for everyone involved with Toyota because it is our home race and we will have so many people cheering us on. The Japanese fans are passionate about F1 and they give you huge support - especially if you're driving for a home team. Japan is very different from Europe but I get on well with the Japanese and I have many Japanese friends dating back as far as my days in karting.

"I also have a big fan club in Japan and I look forward to meeting many of my fans this week. This will actually be my third Japanese Grand Prix as a Toyota driver because I made my debut for the team at Suzuka in 2004.

"But the first time I visited the track was in 1990 for a go kart race. It's a very difficult circuit with a great mix of corners making it very enjoyable for drivers. We struggled in China but rest assured we will be pushing as hard as possible to give all the fans and employees something to cheer on Sunday."

Williams F1 - Mark Webber (#9), Nico Rosberg (#10):

Considering it was a race where they were expecting to struggle following a poor qualifying effort and the stigma of using under performing Bridgestone tyres on a wet surface, Shanghai was not the race many people, including the team themselves, were expecting Williams to break their eleven race points duck.

Nonetheless, Mark Webber got his head down as usual and powered through the field with an effective strategy and a crucial dose of luck when he claimed eighth place from David Coulthard towards the end of the Chinese Grand Prix.

While one point is a meagre reward for a company as esteemed as Williams, the drought that has plagued them since the European Grand Prix makes this probably one of the most significant markers in their history.

Webber goes to Suzuka too in the knowledge that he marginally missed out on a podium finish last season when he lost out to the rampant Raikkonen and Alonso, the Australian eventually crossing the line in fourth place, instead of second.

"We finished fourth at Suzuka last year and it was a good race for us. We were running very close to Fernando Alonso and only just missed out on a podium. The track really is spectacular, it's fantastic. Most people find the Japanese way of life very different to what they're used to and you either love it or you don't.

"The people, though, are always really friendly, very polite and they love to make a big effort. The weather is very changeable in Japan at this time of year due to the season. There are often typhoons, so we always have to be a bit wary of that. Although it's a little north, it's also close to Australia as well which is nice for me, but I won't be making a visit home until the end of the season."

Another race, another new circuit for Nico Rosberg as his maiden season begins to draw to a close. Still, while Suzuka will be another experience for the youngster, the German has high hopes from his Japanese weekend, not least because of the pace shown by the team in adverse circumstances in China.

Interestingly, Rosberg points out the only time he has driven in Japan was the 2000 Karting World Cup at Motegi - something Robert Kubica can relate to...

"I've already raced in Japan in 2000 at the Karting World Cup in Motegi. Well, actually, I started on the first row but then I had a puncture and my race was quickly over! Visiting Japan will be an interesting experience.

"I'll be there from Tuesday as I have some PR work to do in Tokyo before heading to Suzuka. With regards the Suzuka track, it looks like it's a very good one so I am looking forward to driving there. Our car showed some improvements over the Chinese Grand Prix weekend and we hope we can carry on the momentum."

Honda Racing F1 - Rubens Barrichello (#11), Jenson Button (#12):

A circuit they have always performed well on as BAR, Honda are determined to achieve a good result on their own circuit for the final time as they bid to bring their first season as a full-works team to a competitive close.

Although fourth and sixth in China signalled another solid result for the team, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello had lined up on the grid fourth and third respectively and struggled somewhat in the race compared to Ferrari, Renault and McLaren, the three teams they are eager to get on terms with.

Still, Suzuka is a circuit that suits Button's smooth style of driving and with the added spotlight of competing on a Honda-owned circuit, he is determined to bring a strong result to the team for the final time.

"Suzuka is a very special weekend for the whole Honda Racing F1 Team because it is Honda?s home circuit and one of our two home races of the year," the Brit said. "I've had some great support there in the past, especially since I've been involved with Honda, and I'm excited about going back this year.

"It's a very tough circuit and a real challenge for the drivers mentally and physically. You have to be precise, very consistent and it is really important to get the set-up of the car right. Suzuka is definitely one of my favourite circuits and I hope that we can put in a strong performance there for all our Honda fans."

Another circuit that has his name on the previous winners list, Barrichello is another driver who considers Suzuki a treat every time he visits and after a competitive, if rather dramatic Chinese Grand Prix, he is chasing another point scoring performance.

"I'm really looking forward to going to Suzuka this year as a member of the Honda family for the first time. The Japanese fans are always so enthusiastic and create such a great atmosphere over the race weekend that it will be exciting to hear them cheering for me. Suzuka holds some special memories for me as I won there from pole position in 2003.

"The circuit itself is challenging because of the corners and combinations of the track layout and you need a good balance, especially for turns one and two. Our performance has been improving consistently over the last few races, and we had a good final test in Jerez, so I am expecting us to be competitive at Suzuka."

Red Bull Racing - David Coulthard (#14), Robert Doornbos (#15):

After all the team changes leading up to the race, Red Bull Racing were unlucky not to come away with at least a point after Robert Doornbos qualified well, only to throw it away when he clipped Robert Kubica on the first corner, and David Coulthard to lose eighth following a clash with Felipe Massa.

Still, both drivers showed decent pace through the race, weather and fuel load permitting, with Doornbos in particular impressing by qualifying inside the top ten on his first attempt at the knockout format.

His race rustiness may have caught him out come Sunday but the Dutchman is doing his chances of finding a possible future drive no harm at all nonetheless, something he will no doubt be looking to extend in Japan.

Coulthard meanwhile was disappointed that his late race drama in China dropped him from eighth to an agonising ninth, but will be eager to hit back on a circuit where experience really is a virtue, as shown by his strong sixth place in 2005.

BMW Sauber - Nick Heidfeld (#16), Robert Kubica (#17):

Having branded his Chinese Grand Prix the 'most disappointing race' in his career, Nick Heidfeld nonetheless goes to Japan in the knowledge that he was heading for yet another strong result for the ever improving BMW.

Making their fourth appearance in the top ten with both of their drivers during qualifying, the partnership of Heidfeld and Robert Kubica appears to have struck a successful chord, with both drivers pushing each other up the grid, something that should have seen Heidfeld claim fourth in China but for the interference of backmarkers and the eventual fatal blow by Rubens Barrichello on the final lap, dropping him to seventh by the finish.

Still, Heidfeld is determined to get back on track, ranking Suzuka as his favourite F1 circuit on the calendar, while he too has signalled his hopes the track can be saved for a possible second race in the land of the rising sun.

"I just can't wait to get to Suzuka," he said. "It's my favourite of all F1 circuits. This time it will be a slightly wistful occasion as we may not be racing there again after 2006 if Fuji joins the racing calendar as the venue for the Japanese GP. But I'm hoping there might be two races in Japan.

"It would be sad to say farewell to this challenging circuit. Its main attraction is the so-called 'esses', a series of high-speed turns behind the pits. There are five consecutive corners which flow beautifully and are tremendous fun if you manage to get them right. But if you mess up the first turn, it will pursue you right through to the last one in the sequence.

Kubica meanwhile continues to win new fans after a storming drive in China, spoilt by a decision to switch to slick tyres on a still greasy circuit.
Indeed, despite being knocked off on the first corner and carrying more fuel than those in front, Kubica got himself back into a point scoring position before his tyre faux pas.

Nonetheless, despite gaining a reputation as an exceptionally quick learner, the Pole is keeping his expectations to a minimum on a circuit he has never driven before, provided you don't count his computer game...

"I've only been to Japan once . back in 2000 for the Karting World Championship in Motegi," he said. "So I don't actually know the Suzuka track, although it seems very impressive . I took a look at it on a computer game.

"It looks very challenging and it must be fun to drive there, so I'm really looking forward to the Japanese GP. Unfortunately I've never had the opportunity to drive another car there, but I'm sure driving a Formula One will be a tremendous experience."

Spyker MF1 Racing - Tiago Monteiro (#18), Christijan Albers (#19):

Spyker MF1 are hopeful they will be able to put in a 'good performance' in Japan in what is the home event for engine supplier, Toyota. While China was disappointing last weekend initial weather predictions and certain track characteristics suggest that the conditions may well swing in teams' favour. As such the Silverstone-based outfit is looking forward to showing what they are capable of achieving.

"Japan has a very rich racing heritage and plays an extremely important role in Formula One," team boss Colin Kolles said. "As the official home of our engine partner Toyota, it is important for Spyker MF1 Team to do well here. However coming to the Suzuka circuit is a great test for the team.

"This is a demanding track and we have had very little time since the end of the Chinese Grand Prix last weekend. I have no doubt that we will be ready though for what is always an exciting race, the weather here is unpredictable and the crowd extremely enthusiastic so I hope we will see some great racing and a good performance by Spyker MF1 Team."

Both Albers and Monteiro are looking forward to the race weekend and Monteiro said he was a fan of the unique layout of the figure of eight circuit.

"It's good to be back in Japan so soon after leaving China," he said. "Back-to-back races mean that I can totally focus on my driving for two weekends rather than be interrupted by time away from the track. I like the circuit at Suzuka as it has such a unique layout. Corners such as 130R are extremely famous in Formula One and require great driving to maximise the capability of the car. I had a good race here last year so I hope to improve upon what we have achieved so far," he continued.

Scuderia Toro Rosso - Vitantonio Liuzzi (#20), Scott Speed (#21):

Although their final result was nothing to shout about, Scuderia Toro Rossos qualifying effort in China showed that they are still making small but significant strides as their maiden season comes to a close.

A new circuit experience for both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed, further points to add to their single marker achieved back at Indianapolis may be somewhat out of reach, but they remain a team with something to prove around a demanding circuit, even if their rookie status could harm their chances.

Super Aguri F1 - Takuma Sato (#22), Sakon Yamamoto (#23):

This is the race Super Aguri have been waiting for since their plan to field an all-Japanese team was born at this very race twelve months ago.

With national hero Takuma Sato at the wheel and fellow popular youngster Sakon Yamamoto by his side, this is the race that Aguri Suzuki is hoping will prove that his tail ending team have what it takes to move towards the mid-field.

Indeed, Sato has always been quick at Suzuka, scoring his first ever points there with a fifth place finish for Jordan in 2002, while Yamamoto goes there with plenty of prior knowledge, not least when he impressed as Jordan's third driver last season.

Indeed, both drivers are anticipating a thrilling home grand prix, even if Sato is going there with some rather slapped wrists following his exclusion in China. Incidentally, he was also disqualified from last season's race for causing an avoidable accident...

"Suzuka will be extremely challenging both mentally and physically for us this year. We are really upbeat after a great race in Shanghai and we should have a very strong package now. Suzuka has an equal number of the right and left- hand corners and most of them lead straight into each other, so it is important to have the absolutely right balance of the car, which I believe we can achieve after our successful testing at Silverstone last month.

"We are firmly concentrating on performing well at this race as this will be not only our first, but our only chance to visit Suzuka this year, so we are passionate to have a good weekend for our fans. I cannot wait to share the massive support that I have had over the years as I am sure that all the team will feel it."

Yamamoto meanwhile feels very much at home at Suzuka, not least because he doesn't live all that far away. Ultimately, he is targeting a finish having only managed to do so for the first time in China, but he is certainly excited nonetheless.

"This really is my home grand prix because I was born very close to Suzuka. When I was eight years old I went to see the F1 race there and ever since that day I have wanted to be an F1 driver. So I joined the Suzuka Kart Racing School when I was 12 years old and that was my first step into motorsport. I drove my first Formula car at Suzuka and what I could see from the car was just like what I had been watching on the TV!

"I have grown up with the Suzuka circuit, so I cannot help but be excited to be going to the Japanese Grand Prix for the first time as a Formula One driver and with a Japanese team. Last weekend in China I finished an F1 race for the first time, so this is a good step for me going to Suzuka this week. I am really looking forward to seeing all of the Japanese fans and I will try to do the best, even more than usual, in front of my home crowd."

TYRES:

Bridgestone have vowed that they will be pushing to the maximum in Japan this weekend, in order to reach their targets - and try and help Michael Schumacher and Ferrari in their bid to beat Fernando Alonso and Renault to the drivers' and manufacturers' titles.

The Japanese Grand Prix is a significant one for Bridgestone and while the battle for the titles will be foremost it is also important in other ways. Indeed it is not only the home event for them, but it is also one for their partner teams, Toyota and Super Aguri. All-in-all then it is an extremely crucial weekend and one they will be determined to shine at.

"Suzuka is a great circuit and very challenging from a driver's point of view," technical manager, Hisao Suganuma said. "It has a unique figure of eight configuration, combining several high speed corners and a tight hairpin. All areas of the tyres' performance are tested in Suzuka on all four corners of the car. The track also demands good traction and high levels of grip. The S Curves in sector one are particularly important for setting good lap times as the drivers require good change of direction performance from the tyres.

"Another factor to take into consideration is Suzuka's track surface which is quite rough and abrasive. This dictates the need for a tyre with good wear durability and a mid-ranging compound selection."

With Bridgestone set to be the sole tyre supplier next season, Michelin is keen to end the year on a high and will look to try and repeat its performance at Suzuka last year - when Kimi Raikkonen stole a dramatic victory on the very last lap and Michelin shod cars locked-out the top six places on the results.

However the unique nature of the Suzuka circuit, being the only figure of eight on the calendar, means it can be hard on tyres - especially through the series of high-speed bends that characterise the first half of the lap and in the fearsome 130R, one of the most daunting corners on the F1 schedule.

"Suzuka is one of the most demanding tracks on the calendar," Formula One director Nick Shorrock said. "In terms of severity it is quite similar to Silverstone - and that is where we tested to prepare tyres for this weekend's race. Suzuka's figure-of-eight configuration might even things out in terms of wear rates, but it still puts significant mechanical forces through the tyres.

"Following the Silverstone test, our six partners selected a range of compounds and we will have 10 different products available. A small section of the famous Suzuka crossover has been resurfaced since we last raced there, but I don't expect this to make a great deal of difference. The fact that we are using V8 engines, however, has allowed us to reduce the tyre rigidity by up to one step."

THE TRACK:

Race Distance: 53 laps - Circuit Length: 3.608 miles (5.807 kms)

Situated on Honshu, the largest of the Japanese islands, the Honda-owned Suzuka circuit was designed by John Hugenholtz, a Dutchman who also produced Zandvoort and Jarama, and was completed in 1962. Originally used as a test circuit by Honda, the track is now just one component of a giant amusement park and other facilities.

The Suzuka track has an18-turn figure-of-eight layout that is unique in F1. It begins with a fast fifth gear First Curve that tightens to lead into a series of fast S-bends. Spoon Curve and the legendary 130R are the other great challenges on this popular driver's circuit. Overtaking is normally done into the slowest corner on the track, the 40mph Casio Triangle chicane at the end of the lap, into the First Curve and very occasionally at the Turn 11 Hairpin.

Suzuka has recently been sympathetically modernised: in 2002, the circuit was reduced in length by realigning several key corners to provide greater run-off areas. Retaining walls were also moved back and the track slightly altered at the S-Curves and Dunlop Curves. For 2003, the 130R was tweaked to provide a faster and more fluent corner with an earlier turn-in. Further changes were made at the revised Casio Triangle chicane which is now more open than before.

THE WINNER?

Although the role of the second drivers will arguably come into play this weekend, fans will no doubt be aching to see Alonso and Schumacher go head-to- head in equal circumstances, with none of the rain affecting the Chinese Grand Prix.

With nothing to choose between the pair in the title standings, the Japanese Grand Prix will undoubtedly be between Alonso and Schumacher, with Fisichella and Massa playing supporting roles, while McLaren and Honda could well get in on the act too.

Nonetheless, on Suzuka's swansong, this weekend will surely be down to the Alonso and Schumacher...

LAST SEASON:

Although 2005 saw several exciting races of the year, none could compare to that of the Japanese Grand Prix after a thrilling race that was only decided on the final lap when Kimi Raikkonen did the unthinkable and win from 17th on the grid.

Pulling off a last lap move on a hapless Giancarlo Fisichella who had led from the beginning, Raikkonen's drive through the field was the icing of an extraordinary grand prix that had seen a mixed up grid following a mid-session shower.

Fisichella was a wholly unsatisfied and rather embarrassed second, ahead of Fernando Alonso, who too had to fight his way up from the back of the field, including pulling off a classic move on Michael Schumacher no less around the outside of 130R - eventually a compromised strategy prevented him from winning, despite proving quicker than Raikkonen when they went up against one another.

Mark Webber was an impressive fourth for Williams, ahead of British duo Jenson Button and David Coulthard, the latter doing a sterling job to score three points for Red Bull. Michael Schumacher was a lacklustre seventh, while brother Ralf was a disappointing eighth having started the race from pole.

1. Kimi Raikkonen Finland McLaren-Mercedes 1hr 29mins 02.212secs 53 laps
2. Giancarlo Fisichella Italy Renault-Renault +1.6s
3. Fernando Alonso Spain Renault-Renault +17.5s
4. Mark Webber Australia Williams-BMW +22.3s
5. Jenson Button Britain BAR-Honda +29.5s
6. David Coulthard Britain Red Bull-Cosworth 31.6s
7. Michael Schumacher Germany Ferrari-Ferrari +33.9s
8. Ralf Schumacher Germany Toyota-Toyota +49.6s