Once More With Feeling
As five-time formula One world champion Michael Schumacher waits on the grid of the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka on Oct. 12 he'll have one thing on his mind: the old F1 adage, "In order to finish first, first you have to finish." Going into the season's last race, he leads McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen by nine points, and just needs to finish in the first eight to secure a record-breaking sixth championship. Williams' Juan Pablo Montoya, touted by many F1 pundits as the heir to Schumi's throne, must wait another year to take a crack at the title.
By Schumacher's sky-high standards, it's been a tough season. Last year he clinched the championship in July; at the same stage this year he was just a couple of points ahead of Raikkonen. But the 2003 trophy would be the greater achievement of the two, because it's been a much closer contest. That's in part due to new rules introduced at the start of the season. The sport's ruling body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (fia), revised its points system to prevent a repeat of last year's easy Ferrari win. For instance, second-place finishers were given more points than before, allowing Raikkonen to be competitive even though he has only won one race, compared with Schumacher's six. Teams were banned from refueling between qualifying and races, allowing slower cars carrying less fuel to start nearer the front of the grid, mixing things up nicely
The result has been the best Formula One season since the 1980s. Driving legend Stirling Moss thinks the changes have made the difference. "What the fia did was excellent," he says; "it has given a great boost to the racing
It helped, too, that the huge technical gap between Ferrari and the rest of the field in 2002 has since been narrowed by Williams, McLaren and Renault. In fact, Raikkonen and Montoya had something of an edge, the result of an unusually hot European summer: their Michelin tires are better for dry weather than Schumacher's Bridgestones. So it was poetic justice when, in the penultimate race of the season, Schumi had some freakish weather on his side for a change. The wettest Indiana September in years brought rain to the U.S. Grand Prix: and as any F1 fan will tell you, nobody drives in the rain as well as the Ferrari ace. Schumacher started seventh on the grid, but while everyone else was in and out of the pits to change dry tires for wets and back again, he held steady to take the chequered flag. "If you have a result like this at a crucial moment," he said afterward, "it is beautiful."
May Blessed Allah Rock You
It's only a game, but you wouldn't know that from all the advance anxiety generated by this week's potentially explosive European football championship qualifier in Istanbul between England and Turkey. Officials in both countries are raising security precautions to new levels. Tensions between Turkish and English football fans have been high since 2000, when two Leeds United supporters were stabbed to death amid crowd mayhem before a UEFA (Union Européene de Football Association) Cup match against Galatasaray in Istanbul. When the two countries played in Sunderland last April, some English fans chanted racist abuse at the Turks and invaded the pitch after the game. This time, the English Football Association has refused the usual allotment of tickets for visiting fans and pleaded with supporters to stay home. Turkish authorities vowed to turn English fans back at the border and lock up (for the duration of the game) anyone who succeeded in penetrating the triple police cordon around the stadium. Even Turkey's imams have got in on the act. After Friday prayers earlier this month, they urged fans to eschew the usual raucous chants directed at their opponents ("We are ready to die, die," and "There's a beating waiting for you outside,") and instead express approval of the home side in more dignified and spiritual terms: Maasallah (May Allah preserve you), they suggested, or Baarek Allah (Blessed Allah). At a football match in Istanbul that weekend, fans welcomed the proposals, if not the spirit: "Blessed Allah" became Baarek Allah Belani Versin. Translation: may Allah give you trouble!