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New rules liven up show but fail to stop Ferrari

Twelve months ago Formula One's ruling body changed the rules to revitalise the sport after TV viewing figures tumbled around the world when Ferrari dominated F1 in 2002.

A year on, Ferrari have secured a fifth constructors' title and Schumacher has claimed his record-breaking sixth world title - but only just. The outcome may have been the same but changes to the qualifying system and points-scoring positions ultimately brought Formula One back to life and added interest and intrigue.

Both championship battles went down to the wire -- the exact intent of the changes -- and despite the season ending with familiar winners, it was hailed as a success.

Ferrari team boss Jean Todt was opposed to the rule changes and admits they made winning again this year a lot harder.

"We probably did not get the best out of them in the beginning but then I think the wish was to make qualifying more unpredictable this year," he said. "This season it was much more competitive, it was much more difficult to achieve what we achieved and we had to wait until the last race before it came.

"It's hard to believe because we have been fighting so much so it will take a few days before we do realise it. All the team can feel proud of the job that has been done."

It took Ferrari driver Rubens Barrichello's victory at Suzuka to end Kimi Raikkonen's hopes of lifting a maiden world title. McLaren's Raikkonen needed to win and hope Schumacher finished outside of the points. In the end, however, Schumacher collected the single point that he needed.

But more significantly Williams, who trailed Ferrari by three points in the constructors' championship heading to Japan, saw their title hopes end in a whimper. Juan Pablo Montoya retired from the lead early in the race and team-mate Ralf Schumacher could only finish 12th after starting from the back and spinning twice.

Technical director Patrick Head said: "It was a very poor end but over the whole year we did well. We started too weak and had a very poor last two races, but the car speed has been good at all the races.

Frank Williams added: "It is a disappointing end to what has been a brilliant Formula One season."

Williams took scant consolation from retaining their second place in the constructors' championship with Head insisting they were determined to halt the Ferrari success show.

"Well he (Schumacher) is a fantastic driver - there's no doubt about that - and Ferrari are a great team and they've come out in the front this year, but it's our job to beat them," Head said.

Source : Sapa-AFP

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