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SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Spain's Fernando Alonso claimed the Formula One world championship for the second successive year as closest rival Michael Schumacher punctured in his final race and finished fourth in the Brazilian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Renault ace Alonso was content to drive a conservative race to finish second behind Schumacher's Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa who was winning on his home track at Interlagos.
But all eyes were on Schumacher who drove an heroic race after being forced into the pits on lap nine.
Having started 10th on the grid as a result of fuel pressure problems during final qualifying, Schumacher's misfortunes continued after charging through the field in the early laps of the season finale.
After a thrilling move to overtake Alonso's teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, the seven-time champion slowed dramatically and was forced to complete nearly a full lap with a rear tire in shreds.
Massa was controlling the race, but once back on the track Schumacher showed his pedigree to carve back through the field once again.
Daring overtaking moves saw him retake Fisichella for fifth place and then Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who will take over his drive at Ferrari next season, for fourth spot.
Britain's Jenson Button, who also charged through the field after qualifying problems, took a fine third place in the BAR Honda.
Alonso, only needing to finish in the points to clinch the title, was rarely troubled in second place and duly closed out the championship, leading Renault to the constructors' crown from Ferrari for good measure.
At 25, Alonso, who will also be changing teams next season, driving for McLaren, becomes the youngest man to retain the championship.
"The position did not matter today, the important thing was to win the championship for the second successive time," said Alonso, who also paid tribute to his rival.
"I think it was good to fight with him," the Spaniard said.
"I always said that to become champion when Michael was still on the track has maybe more value than when he retired, and I was extremely lucky to win the last two championships he raced in.
"I think all the drivers wish him the best for his new life with his family. It has been a pleasure for us to race with him," said Alonso.
Schumacher was left to reflect on a disastrous end to his year which saw him forced to retire when leading the penultimate round in Japan and apparently on the way to an eighth crown.
Schumacher makes the overtaking move on Fisichella shortly before he punctured.