When Sunday dawned bright and sunny at Suzuka for the 2006 Japanese Grand Prix, it seemed that Renault had lost their only trump card in the increasingly desperate challenge to stop Ferrari's Michael Schumacher snatching away a title that had, for most of the season, seemed like Fernando Alonso's. With the barometer rising, Michelin's wet weather advantage nullified and Alonso stranded behind the Toyota pairing on the grid, it mattered little that Alonso and Schumacher were level on points.
Nor did it matter that Schumacher had qualified behind teammate Felipe Massa on the grid. The Ferraris had been so dominant in qualifying that, especially with the Toyota buffer between them and rivals Renault, they'd be able to control the race effortlessly at their own pace.
A Renault passes the stricken Ferrari of Michael Schumacher © LAT
Massa would pull over and let his team leader past, Alonso would struggle along into third place, and Schumacher would head to Brazil needing to finish fourth or lower in order to lose the championship - even if Alonso won at Interlagos.
At least, that's how the conventional thinking went. And, on many an occasion, that's exactly how it would have worked out. But nobody, and probably least of all Michael Schumacher, reckoned on an engine failure.