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Race analysis - catch us if you can 12 Jun 2006

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault celebrates iwith the team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, 11 June 2006 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1 waves to the crowd.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, 11 June 2006 Juan Pablo Montoya (COL) McLaren Mercedes MP4/21.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, 11 June 2006 Jacques Villeneuve (CDN) BMW Sauber F1.06.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Qualifying Day, Silverstone, England, 10 June 2006 Jenson Button (GBR) Honda watched the race from the pit wall.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 8, British Grand Prix, Race, Silverstone, England, 11 June 2006

Fernando Alonso has pledged to keep on winning, and after Renault took their sixth victory of the year at Silverstone it is hard to envisage them losing their current grip on the world championship for constructors.

Sunday could scarcely have been better for the blue team. Alonso started from pole and set the fastest lap (nearly four-tenths better than Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari), and the only downside for Renault was Giancarlo Fisichella finishing off the podium in fourth. Nevertheless, the Italian’s five-point haul helped the team to add another 15 points to their tally, which now runs at 106.

With second and fourth places it was hardly a disaster for Ferrari, with 12 extra points taking them to 75 and keeping them well clear of McLaren. But Michael Schumacher reported no problems while admitting that they simply weren’t fast enough on the day.

“The Renault challenge is nothing new or surprising,” he said. “They’ve been strong all year. So have we but we have had a hiccough in some of the races. That’s the difference. We have to work on that to get even more out of the car, and to have two cars up at the front. I have heard it suggested that this is a crucial race for me, but it isn’t at all. There are still 10 races to go. We believe in ourselves and will do a lot of work to get as many points as possible and to be up the front by the end of the year, just as Renault will try to do the same thing!”

It would be foolish ever to consider that the championship is Renault’s already, but right now they have the strongest grip on it.

For McLaren, Silverstone was good and bad news. The good news was that they nearly pulled off second place on a circuit where aerodynamic efficiency is crucial, and made some progress. The bad news was that Ferrari had a set of new tyres left for Schumacher’s final stint and they gave him sufficient grip to do such a stunning out lap that he was able to pass the McLaren while it was refuelling. Raikkonen also reported oversteer towards the end, which took a little edge off his performance. Montoya was a little demotivated on his way to sixth, and their fastest laps (fifth and eighth fastest respectively) were not in the same league as Alonso or Schumacher’s. The Spaniard was fastest on 1m 21.599s, followed by Michael on 1m 21.934s, then came Fisichella (1m 22.238s), Massa (fourth place, 1m 22.371s), Raikkonen (1m 22.461s), Nick Heidfeld (1m 22.706s), Jarno Trulli (1m 22.744s) and Montoya (1m 22.780s). The top 10 was rounded out by Nico Rosberg on 1m 22.916s and Jacques Villeneuve on 1m 22.921s.

BMW Sauber had something to cheer about, taking home three points after feisty performances from Heidfeld and Villeneuve. The German made a great start and worked that for seventh place; Villeneuve survived a collision with Montoya early on and then took big risks on worn tyres in his battle with Rosberg to make up ground on the German after his second stop and grab the final point on offer. The F1.06s had few problems all weekend and at times they were very quick. The only fly in the ointment was a delay during Heidfeld’s first stop, when he couldn’t select first gear. That dropped him behind Montoya and cost him a shot at sixth place.

Williams lost Webber on the first lap, but Rosberg drove a strong, charging race to ninth and was unlucky to lose out to Villeneuve in the second stops. Really, Williams deserved a point, but at least the FW28’s reliability was improved over Monaco.

The race was a nightmare for Honda, with Button’s qualifying problem, and then his early retirement when the engine oil tank split and he spun off on his own oil after eight laps. Barrichello should have done a lot better than 10th place, but found that the RA106’s strong performance on new tyres evaporated once they had started to wear. Altogether, a disappointing weekend that was mitigated only slightly as the Brazilian fended off a challenge from Jarno Trulli’s Toyota. The Italian made a good start from the back of the field, but ultimately couldn’t improve on 11th. Ralf Schumacher was a first-lap retirement after attack by Scott Speed at Becketts, and then a collision with Webber as he sought trackside refuge.

It wasn’t a happy weekend for Red Bull, either, with David Coulthard only 12th ahead of Tonio Liuzzi and Christian Klien. The Scot fought understeer throughout, and was concerned that he might have damaged his RB2’s underside after running over the Stowe kerb while battling with Villeneuve. Klien also experienced understeer, and struggled in the high-speed corners. A change of front wing flap enabled him to pass Coulthard at one stage, but the state of his tyres in his final stint dropped him back again.

Speed’s first-lap enthusiasm accounted for one Toro Rosso, but Liuzzi brought his home 13th after the team switched from a two-stop strategy to one-stop. On this fast track where balance is crucial, the V10 Cosworth engine was always going to be at a disadvantage.

Midland and Super Aguri started both cars and finished both. Midland were hampered after using all their new tyres up trying to get good grid places in qualifying. Takuma Sato was happy with his Super Aguri, but Franck Montagny reported that his SA05 was horrible during the early going as he struggled with oversteer and general lack of traction.

In the tyre stakes, there didn’t seem much to choose between Michelin and Bridgestone. The French brand is now on the brink of its century of victories.

Roll on Canada and Indianapolis.