| Michael Schumacher after clinching a record sixth world championship in Suzuka on Sunday. (Reuters)
Suzuka: Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher claimed a record sixth Formula One title on Sunday as Brazilian teammate Rubens Barrichello won the Japanese Grand Prix to deny McLaren rival Kimi Raikkonen a shot at the world championship.
One point was all the German needed to overtake late Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio’s 1950s haul of five championships and, in the end, the German did not even need that to leap into motor racing history. But he scored it anyway, finishing eighth in a damp season-ending race of fluctuating fortunes and occasional scares.
Barrichello crawled across the line and stopped briefly alongside his team as they celebrated on the pit wall and was embraced after jumping out of his car. He then walked across to hug Schumacher, on the other side of the fence, before the world champion was mobbed by the team and boss Jean Todt arrived to join in the celebrations.
Barrichello’s win actually led to double celebrations as it helped Ferrari land their fifth consecutive constructors’ title.
Raikkonen, who had to win and hope Schumacher failed to score to have any chance of becoming the youngest champion at the age of 23, finished second behind Barrichello.
Schumacher closed out the season with 93 points to Raikkonen’s 91.
But with Raikkonen leading for one lap while Schumacher was well out of the points and battling with tailenders, there was always a chance of one of the greatest upsets in Formula One history. Schumacher had clipped the rear of the BAR driven by Japan’s Takuma Sato after seven laps in an accident that sent him to the back of the field and was then almost shunted out by younger brother Ralf 11 laps from the end.
No driver had ever managed to overturn a nine-point deficit to win the title in the last race of the season.
Raikkonen, with teammate David Coulthard making every effort to assist him, did his best but never really threatened Barrichello’s comfortable lead.
A winner with Benetton in 1994 and 1995, Schumacher has taken the title for the past four years with Ferrari after becoming their first champion in 21 years in 2000. Coulthard was third in the race, ahead of Briton Jenson Button in a BAR and Italian Jarno Trulli for Renault.
Sato, replacing Canadian Jacques Villeneuve after the former champion quit the team before the race, came sixth in his first race in a year.
DRIVERS: 1. Michael Schumacher (Germany, Ferrari — 93 points); 2. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland, McLaren — 91); 3. Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia, Williams — 82); 4. Rubens Barrichello (Brazil, Ferrari — 65); 5. Ralf Schumacher (Germany, Williams — 58); 6. Fernando Alonso (Spa, Renault — 55); 7. David Coulthard (Britain, McLaren — 51); 8. Jarno Trulli (Italy, Renault — 33); 9. Jenson Button (Britain, BAR — 17); 10. Mark Webber (Australia, Jaguar — 17); 11. Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany, Sauber — 13); 12. Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy, Jordan — 12); 13. Cristiano da Matta (Brazil, Toyota — 10); 14. Nick Heidfeld (Germany, Sauber — 6); 15. Olivier Panis (France, Toyota — 6); 16. Jacques Villeneuve (Canada, BAR — 6); 17. Marc Gene (Spain, Williams — 4); 18. Takuma Sato (Japan, BAR — 3); 19. Ralph Firman (Britain, Jordan — 1); 20. Justin Wilson (Britain, Jaguar — 1).
CONSTRUCTORS: 1. Ferrari (158 points); 2. Williams (144); 3. McLaren (142); 4. Renault (88); 5. BAR (26); 6. Sauber (19); 7. Jaguar (18); 8. Toyota (16); 9. Jordan (13); 10. Minardi (0). (Agencies)