Preview: Teams' Title too Close to Call

One false move, one single mishap could hand the Formula One constructors' title to Renault or McLaren at the end of the longest season yet on Sunday

Preview: Teams' Title too Close to Call

It could go either way in China, with Fernando Alonso's Renault leading Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren by a mere two points and 18 still to be won.

While Renault can dream of doing the double, adding a first constructors' title for their own team to the drivers' crown 24-year-old Spaniard Alonso won in Brazil last month, the contest is simply too close to call.

McLaren, who have won the last six races, need only score two points more than Renault to take the title on the number of wins.

The Mercedes-powered team have won 10 times in 18 races, to Renault's seven, with Raikkonen on course to become the first man to win eight races in a single season without taking the Drivers' Championship.

Raikkonen, winner from 17th place on the grid in the previous race in Japan, is in the form of his life but doubts remain about his engine's reliability.

Mercedes pulled out all the stops to assist the Finn's memorable charge at Suzuka, with Raikkonen on maximum revs as he passed Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella on the last lap for a sensational victory.

The Finn, who suffered a blown engine in Friday practice in Japan and had it replaced, must use the same race engine again in Shanghai while both the Renault drivers have new ones prepared for one last blast to the chequered flag.

Bit Closer

"Shanghai is a special type of circuit, and quite different to Japan. But we have a new engine there, so I think we can be maybe a bit closer," said Alonso, who finished third in Japan behind Fisichella.

"I quite enjoy the circuit, it has some challenging corners and for sure, the R25 will be better there than our car was last year. I am going there to help win a Championship."

Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya could hold the key to McLaren's hopes of a ninth constructors's title since their first with Ford in 1974.

Montoya will be one of the first to start in Saturday qualifying after crashing out on the first lap in Suzuka.

"It is going to be a nice race for both teams I think," said Raikkonen. "Last year our car was pretty quick there (in Shanghai) and I quite like the circuit.

"For sure we will try and win the race and hopefully we can win the championship too for the team. We just need to do the best we can and we will see at the end of the race what happens."

The second Grand Prix to be held in China will also mark a watershed for the sport as the end of an era.

On a technical level, it will be the last at which fans will be able to hear a full grid of V10 engines at full throttle, with Formula One switching to V8 power in 2006.

It will also be a farewell for three of the small 'independent' teams with the Jordan name disappearing to re-emerge as Midland next year, Minardi being sold to Red Bull and Swiss-based Sauber to BMW.

Williams' partnership with BMW comes to a close after six years while Brazilian Rubens Barrichello, last year's winner in Shanghai, makes his final appearance for Ferrari before moving to Honda-owned BAR.

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, the 1997 champion, will be hoping that China is not his final race. Despite having a contract with Sauber that covers next year, new owners BMW have yet to confirm he will get the drive.

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Series Formula 1
Author Alan Baldwin
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