Fernando Alonso dealt a near knock-out blow to Michael Schumacher’s championship hopes at Suzuka by winning the penultimate race of 2006.
Ferrari’s Schumacher commanded the race until lap 37, when he suffered his first engine failure in six years.
In a reversal of fortunes in the Chinese GP just a week ago, the news means that Alonso only needs a single point in Brazil in a fortnight to seal his second career drivers’ crown.
Among the incidents in the race was Christijan Albers’ spectacular suspension failure aboard his Spyker, which separated his rear wing and right rear wheel from his car.
GP Japan, race
1. F. Alonso Renault 1:23:53.413
2. F. Massa Ferrari + 16.151
3. G. Fisichella Renault + 23.953
4. J. Button Honda + 34.101
5. K. Räikkönen McLaren + 43.596
6. J. Trulli Toyota + 46.717
7. R. Schumacher Toyota + 48.869
8. N. Heidfeld BMW + 1:16.095
9. R. Kubica BMW + 1:16.932
10. N. Rosberg Williams + 1lap
11. P. de la Rosa McLaren + 1 lap
12. R. Barrichello Honda + 1 lap
13. R. Doornbos Red Bull + 1 lap
14. V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso + 1 lap
15. T. Sato Super Aguri + 1 lap
16. T. Monteiro Spyker MF1 + 2 laps
17. S. Yamamoto Super Aguri + 3 laps