Home - The Official Formula 1 Website Skip to content

2006 Race by Race - Part Two 18 Dec 2006

(L to R): Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari celebrates with third placed team mate Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 5, European Grand Prix, Race, Nurburgring, Germany, 7 May 2006 Jarno Trulli (ITA) Toyota TF106 is hit by Ralf Schumacher (GER) Toyota TF106.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, 14 May 2006 Aguri Suzuki (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team Principal with Yuji Ide (JPN) Super Aguri F1 Team on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Race Day, Imola, Italy, 23 April 2006 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26 runs wide in his pursuit of Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248F1. 
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Race Day, Imola, Italy, 23 April 2006 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault, Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault in Parc ferme.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 6, Spanish Grand Prix, Race, Barcelona, Spain, 14 May 2006

The San Marino, European and Spanish Grands Prix

A look back at rounds four to six, in which Michael Schumacher and Ferrari began to emerge as title contenders. Among the key moments - Schumacher’s first victory since the 2005 US Grand Prix; a spectacular barrel roll for Christijan Albers; Felipe Massa’s first fastest lap; a double engine change for Williams; and a team mates Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher colliding in Spain.

Round Four - Imola - 23 April
Michael Schumacher
Pole: Michael Schumacher
Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

The Tifosi were desperate to see a reversal in Ferrari’s fortunes at their home race and that was exactly what they got. Michael Schumacher may not have had the quickest package at every stage of the race, but he made it count when it mattered, prompting Renault to take something of a strategic gamble - one which didn’t quite pay off for Fernando Alonso.

The opening practice sessions gave some hint of the battle that was to come. Unusually for a Friday, it wasn’t the third drivers who topped the times, but Alonso and Schumacher. They remained in charge on Saturday morning, this time Schumacher emerging just ahead, and the German maintained the initiative in qualifying as he scored the 66th pole position of his Formula One career, breaking the late Ayrton Senna’s record. Jenson Button secured yet another front-row grid slot, while Alonso wound up fifth behind Rubens Barrichello and Felipe Massa. Understandably, given their recent form, Renault did not seem unduly worried - but they should have been.

Schumacher kept his lead at the start - and at the restart which followed a spectacular barrel roll for Midland’s Christijan Albers after he was punted off by Yuji Ide’s Super Aguri. But by the time the first pit stops were complete, the flying Alonso was already up to second and crawling all over the rear of the Ferrari. Apparently struggling for grip, Schumacher effectively slowed their pace by two seconds a lap. Renault knew Alonso could go much quicker and decided to bring him in early for his second stop. The minute they did so, Schumacher suddenly found some speed - so much in fact that after diving for the pits just a lap later, he still emerged just ahead of the world champion. Alonso continued to hound Schumacher but as he knew from his own victory over the German the previous year, there is no way past at Imola unless your rival makes a mistake. Schumacher didn’t, and went on to secure his first victory since the ‘Bridgestone only’ US Grand Prix of 2005.

A long first stint helped Juan Pablo Montoya to a distant third place for McLaren, just ahead of Felipe Massa’s Ferrari and the second McLaren of Kimi Raikkonen. Trailing those three came Mark Webber’s Williams and the Honda of Jenson Button, who had suffered from a disastrous final pit stop in which he was released before the fuel hose had been detached from the car. Giancarlo Fisichella took the final point, recovering from a disappointing qualifying performance that had left him 11th on the grid.

Round Five - Europe - 7 May
Michael Schumacher
Pole: Fernando Alonso
Fastest Lap: Michael Schumacher
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Anyone suggesting that Ferrari’s Imola win had been a flash in the pan were quickly made to eat their words at the Nurburgring where Schumacher again outpaced and outfoxed Alonso to take his second successive victory. The reigning and former champions were in a class of their own all weekend and the duel began in Friday practice when they were easily the fastest race drivers, separated by just a few hundredths of a second.

That battle raged on in qualifying, with Alonso raising his game - or was it Renault changing their fuel strategy - to take his first pole position of the year. Schumacher duly took the second front-row spot, less than two tenths slower than the Spaniard, and with an added advantage. He had team mate Massa right behind him in third, whereas Alonso could count on little support from Fisichella, who was left a distant 11th in the starting line-up after being baulked by Jacques Villeneuve (who was subsequently penalised) during a crucial flying lap. Rubens Barrichello put in his best Honda qualifying yet to take fourth, ahead of McLaren’s Raikkonen. Saturday’s biggest losers were Williams, with both Webber and Nico Rosberg taking ten-place grid penalties for precautionary engine changes.

Alonso maintained his lead at the start, with Schumacher busy fending off an unsuccessful first-corner attack from Massa. Button moved up from sixth to fourth, while team mate Barrichello dropped to seventh. There was drama at the rear, as Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota tagged the Toro Rosso of Tonio Liuzzi, which in turn contacted David Coulthard’s Red Bull. Schumacher continued, but Liuzzi and Coulthard were to quickly retire as a result.

From there it quickly became clear that it would be a tactical battle between Alonso and Schumacher. Alonso stopped sooner, but Schumacher was unable to do enough to move ahead at the first stops. At the second, however, he did. A series of searing laps from the German left Alonso powerless as he watched the Ferrari emerge from the pits in front. Realising he simply didn’t have the pace to match his rival, Alonso soon settled for second, turning the revs down on his Renault engine in the closing stages in order to preserve it for the next race.

Massa made it a one-three for Ferrari, sealing his first Formula One podium in the process, coming home just 4.4 seconds behind Schumacher, with a charging Raikkonen was just 0.4 seconds further back. No one else was in contention. Barrichello came home fifth, well over a minute behind the leaders, followed by Fisichella, Rosberg - who put in a storming drive from last on the grid - and Villeneuve. An unusually high number of mechanical retirements accounted for no less than seven cars, among them the Honda of the luckless Button and the similarly powered Super Aguri of Franck Montagny, the Frenchman having made his Grand Prix debut as replacement for Yuji Ide.

Round Six - Spain -14 May
Fernando Alonso
Pole: Fernando Alonso
Fastest Lap: Felipe Massa
Links: Results / Live Timing Archive, Photos, TV images, Technical Analysis

Fernando Alonso came into his home race with many believing that Ferrari had his Renault team on the back foot. It was going to require something special from the world champion if the sell-out crowd were going to witness him become the first Spaniard to win on home soil.

Friday morning’s practice was not the busiest affair - only nine drivers set times - thanks mainly to the fact the teams carry out huge amounts of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya outside of races. In the slightly more representative afternoon session it Alonso was notably the fastest of the race drivers. Come Saturday morning and the Ferrari-Renault battle had well and truly resumed, with Michael Schumacher pipping Fisichella to the fastest time.

And there was no let-up in qualifying. Superb laps from Alonso and Fischella were enough to give Renault a one-two on the grid, but the two Ferraris were poised menacingly behind them on row two. Fifth place went to the Honda of Rubens Barrichello, the Brazilian out-qualifying team mate Jenson Button for the second race in a row, with the Toyotas of Ralf Schumacher and Trulli lining up sixth and seventh. It wasn’t such a great session for McLaren. Raikkonen could manage no better than ninth, and a pit-stop blunder meant Montoya didn’t even progress as far as the top-ten shootout. Coulthard was another without luck on his side. The Scot, making his 200th Grand Prix appearance, brought out the red flags in session one after a broken water hose soaked his rear tyres and sent his Red Bull spinning into the barriers.

Had the Renaults run light in qualifying, fearing Ferrari’s resurgence in form? Many in the paddock believed so and the smart money was on the red cars clearing up in the race. Alonso had other ideas. Some stunning pace in his opening stint gave him a lead that even Michael Schumacher could do nothing about, despite running six laps longer before his first stop. The German did manage to leapfrog Fisichella - whose pace was nowhere near that of Alonso’s - but the reigning champion’s grip on the race was never threatened and he took a comfortable and emotional victory in front of his adoring fans – all 130,000, with King Juan Carlos of Spain among them.

Renault and Ferrari were in a class of their own. Behind their four cars came McLaren’s Raikkonen, almost half a minute behind fourth-placed Massa, closely followed by a hard-charging Button. Barrichello took seventh, with BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld picking up the final point in eighth. Toyota’s promising qualifying efforts all came to nothing after Ralf Schumacher lost part of his front wing by running into his team mate’s rear tyre.

Click here for Part One, Part Three, Part Four, Part Five and Part Six.