OCTOBER 26, 1998

Championship permutations

AS the Formula 1 circus heads east to Japan for the World Championship showdown at Suzuka the two title contenders have been considering what they need to do to win. Mika Hakkinen has 90 points to his name and Michael Schumacher has 86. David Coulthard is third in the World Championship and cannot be overtaken but he could play an important role in the race. Eddie Irvine - a Suzuka specialist - is also likely to be involved.

In order to win the title, Hakkinen needs to finish second. If he does this and Schumacher wins the two would be equal on points, and on the number of Grand Prix victories (seven apiece). In this case Hakkinen would be champion because he has three second places compared to Schumacher's two.

If Schumacher wins with Eddie Irvine behind him and Hakkinen third the German will win the title. If Schumacher does not win the race he has little hope of success. If he finishes second, Hakkinen needs only to be fifth. If Michael is third Hakkinen does not need to score. We expect McLaren to give Coulthard free rein to go for a victory. This would put the pressure on Ferrari without worrying Hakkinen.

In the Constructors Championship Ferrari must finish 1-2 without McLaren scoring if the Italians want to steal the title from their rivals. There is, however, a lively battle going on for third place between Williams (35 points), Benetton (33) and JordanÊ(31).

Similarly, the battle for fifth place in the Drivers' Championship - behind the McLaren and Ferrari drivers - could result in any one of six different drivers coming out ahead: Jacques Villeneuve, Alexander Wurz, Damon Hill, Giancarlo Fisichella, Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher are all in the hunt.