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McLaren's Chances Take a Hit

McLaren's hopes of securing the Formula One constructors' title this weekend were dented when Kimi Raikkonen suffered an engine failure in Friday's opening practice for the Japanese Grand Prix

The Mercedes-powered team are two points clear of Renault with just the season-ending Chinese Grand Prix remaining after Suzuka.

McLaren can win the title on Sunday if they finish one-two, as they did at the last race in Brazil, with Renault failing to score more than a point. Otherwise the title will be decided in Shanghai on October 16.

The engine failure will cost Raikkonen 10 places on the starting grid, leaving the Finn with a tough task despite the evident superiority of his car in recent races.

Raikkonen, winner six times this year but beaten to the drivers' title by Renault's 24-year-old Spaniard Fernando Alonso, pulled off the track halfway through the session with smoke and flames spewing from the engine.

The Finn has been plagued by similar misfortune this season, with blown engines in practice wrecking his hopes of pole position in France, Britain and Italy.

"Obviously I'm a bit disappointed with the engine failure which stopped my first practice session prematurely," said Raikkonen. "However we managed to get some running in the second practice, and there is still plenty of time left tomorrow morning.

"The balance is basically OK but a lot depends on what the weather will do for the rest of the weekend."

Colombian teammate Juan Pablo Montoya enjoyed a better day despite completing only five laps in the afternoon session. He finished down in 22nd place.

"The track is OK and I always really like it," he said. "We had some minor balance issues in the first session but despite this the car was good. In the second session I seemed to run into traffic or somebody broke down in front of me so quite limited value really.

"We will see what the weather is like for the rest of the weekend where obviously we want to get a good result as the Constructors' Championship is important for everybody in the team."

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