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Don't give up, Renault tell Schumacher
Alan Baldwin | October 09, 2006 12:21 IST
"Of course it's difficult for him, but I hope he doesn't give up," said Pat Symonds, Renault's master strategist who guided Schumacher to his first two titles with Benetton in 1994 and 1995.
"I see us as statistical favourites but this has been a hell of a season, everything is so close. I feel good about our prospects but I want Michael fighting (against) us."
Schumacher's hopes of a record eighth title were left in tatters at Suzuka after an engine failure, his first in six years during a race, robbed him of what had looked like a surefire win at one of his favourite tracks.
With Renault's reigning champion Fernando Alonso winning to go 10 points clear with only the Brazilian Grand Prix remaining, Schumacher has one last roll of the dice in his final race before retirement.
Both men have won seven times this year, meaning that if Schumacher were to triumph in Brazil on Oct. 22 and Alonso fail to score a point, then the 37-year-old German would be the champion.
Symonds said that remained entirely possible, with Alonso suffering an engine failure in Monza last month while Schumacher roared to victory.
In China, Alonso led from pole position before tyre problems after his first pitstop slowed his pace and allowed his rival to overtake and win. In Japan, the wheel of fortune turned the Spaniard's way again.
"We've had two races straight after each other where no-one predicted the result," said Symonds.
"It (Sunday's win) was a big relief but I'm not going to say I was happy. I'll never be happy to win a race like that."
Although Schumacher declared on Sunday that he did not think he had any chance left to win the title and would now concentrate on the constructors' battle, Symonds doubted that would be the case.
"I've been in the business long enough to know that you keep fighting until the last round," he said.
"You've got to be strong in this business. And Michael is strong. If he made that comment that the championship's all over, I suspect he'll reflect overnight and he'll be back fighting in Brazil.
"It's his last race, if nothing else, and even if Fernando is sitting on his tail, he'll want to win that race so much."
Renault are now nine points clear of Ferrari in the constructors' standings and will be favourites to retain that crown as well.
While Alonso, who is leaving for McLaren at the end of the season, need only secure a point at Interlagos, the team will need him to do better than that.
They will also be looking to team mate Giancarlo Fisichella, third on Sunday, to take on Schumacher to help both championships. If the Italian wins at Interlagos, he can guarantee Alonso the title.
Symonds refused to take anything for granted, however.
"Let's think about the last two races, China and Japan, very unexpected results with things turning around a lot from Saturday to Sunday," he said.
"So we mustn't be complacent. I'm very pleased to be in this position and I'm much happier than if we were on our back foot trying to fight. But it's far from over. It's going to be a great race in Brazil."
Formula One: The Complete Coverage