Michael Schumacher recognised on Sunday that his dream of retiring from Formula One with an eighth championship was over.
The Ferrari great effectively conceded defeat after an engine failure while leading the penultimate race of his extraordinary career put paid to the hopes that had flowered only the day before.
"To be honest, I don't think there's any chance left for the championship," he said as Renault title rival Fernando Alonso celebrated a surprise Japanese Grand Prix victory in front of a 161,000-strong crowd.
Ferrari had started with both cars on the front row but finished licking their wounds.
Reigning champion Alonso now has a 10-point advantage going into the season-ender in Brazil on Oct. 22. Schumacher can only beat him now if he wins at Interlagos and Alonso suffers a similar nightmare.
He said, however, that he would not wish such misfortune on a rival and preferred instead to focus on a constructors' championship that Renault lead by nine points.
"We've got to see that as clearly as it is, because we all know that Fernando only needs one point now," the 37-year-old told RTL television. "That means it'll be more or less a walk in the park for him now and go easy on everything.
"To assume that someone will not finish, or to plan on winning (the championship) on something like that, isn't a basis that I want to build upon.
"I've digested it already," he said of the engine failure, his first in a race since the 2000 French Grand Prix.
"There aren't any more chances left (in the championship). I've tried everything this year, we all tried everything we could. It wasn't to be."
Schumacher can still hold his head up high after a remarkable comeback, winning five of the seven races before Suzuka to regain the lead in the championship after being 25 points adrift of Alonso in June.
He could still take a 92nd win in Brazil, thereby equalling the combined tally of the two men immediately behind him on the all-time winners' list -- France's Alain Prost (51) and Brazilian Ayrton Senna (41).
With Ferrari he won five drivers titles in a row and six constructors' championships.
"We accomplished so much together. I think we can be proud and satisfied and just because it didn't work out here it doesn't mean it's the end of the world," he said.
"We brought back to life a championship that had somehow already seemed to be decided."
Ferrari boss Jean Todt expressed his feelings of disappointment in a team statement, saying the result had left a "really bitter taste in our mouths", but Schumacher begged to differ.
"We've improved so much in the last few months. That's why there's no reason for me to cry any bitter tears, but rather I feel only joy because until the engine went we were clearly in front," he told Premiere television.
"We did everything right. That's why I'm very content. That's life. It has its ups and downs. That's what makes it so interesting. Life would be so boring if there were only ups."