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Flashback: China 2006 - Schumacher shows his class 10 Apr 2013

Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1 celebrates in the pit lane.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26 leads at the start of the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26 ahead of Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Giancarlo Fisichella (ITA) Renault R26 runs wide after passing Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R26 and Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1 follows.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari 248 F1 celebrates as he finishes the race.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari and the Ferrari team celebration picture.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 16, Chinese Grand Prix, Race, Shanghai International Circuit, Shanghai, China, 1 October 2006

As the Formula One fraternity arrives in Shanghai ahead of this weekend’s 2013 Formula 1 UBS Chinese Grand Prix we remember the classic 2006 race...

In the illustrious, record-shattering career of Michael Schumacher, there were numerous races when he was simply untouchable - the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix was one such occasion.

Just one race earlier - mere moments after winning his fifth Italian Grand Prix - the German maestro had made a tear-filled retirement announcement, but any suggestion that he’d be bowing out of the sport at anything less than the peak of his powers was emphatically dismissed three weeks later in Shanghai.

In truth, a Schumacher victory had looked unlikely after qualifying. Despite winning the previous two races in Turkey and Italy to close in on championship leader Fernando Alonso, Schumacher’s Bridgestone-tyred Ferrari was no match for his Michelin-shod rivals in damp and drizzly conditions. Indeed, whilst Alonso sped to pole for Renault, Schumacher had to be content with sixth on the grid - the only Bridgestone runner in the top ten.

But whilst Sunday morning was another grey and wet affair, those keeping an eye on the weather forecast could see that the race was likely to be rain-free. The track would be wet to start with, but it would likely dry out and - potentially - wipe out the Michelin runners’ advantage.

The field was engulfed in spray as Alonso led Renault team mate Giancarlo Fisichella into the long right-handed first corner at the start, with Schumacher holding fire in sixth. The Spaniard would quickly open up a 20-second lead at the head of the race with a dazzling sequence of laps, but further back Schumacher was moving up the field as the track started to come to his tyres. First he passed Rubens Barrichello’s Honda for fifth and then - a couple of laps later - the Brazilian’s team mate Jenson Button for fourth.

By lap 17 Alonso’s lead was a healthy 25 seconds, while behind, second placed Raikkonen would soon drop out with mechanical issues and Fisichella, in third, had Schumacher glued to his gearbox.

Schumacher made his first pit stop on lap 21, receiving fuel but choosing to remain on his heavily worn but warm intermediate tyres. A lap later and Alonso made his stop but - crucially - he elected to go against his rivals and fit fresh front rubber. It would prove to be a mistake - a dry line was beginning to emerge and Schumacher, as he’d done many times in his career, was revelling in the challenging, half-dry conditions.

Within a matter of laps Alonso’s lead was swiftly eroded by Fisichella, who in turn was being hounded down by Schumacher. The Italian slipped past his ailing Renault team mate on lap 30 and on the next lap, with Alonso struggling mightily for traction, Schumacher got through out of Turn 2.

Schumacher was now not just second on the road, but also in a position to go level on points with Alonso in the championship with just two races to go. There was, however, no indication that Schumacher was willing to settle for second place. Instead, with the track drying he lowered the fastest lap - still on his original set of tyres.

The German eventually stopped for new, dry-weather rubber on lap 40 and a lap later race leader Fisichella did the same. The Renault exited the pit lane still ahead, but as he tried to negotiate Turn 1 on cold tyres, Fisichella slithered wide of the dry line and almost lost control. Schumacher, spotting his opportunity, boldly squeezed his Ferrari down the inside and, using plenty of kerb, moved into the lead.

Alonso, by now on dry tyres and flying, eventually overhauled his team mate for second, setting fastest lap along the way, but it was too little, too late and even the return of the rain on the final lap couldn’t stop Schumacher from claiming a famous and well-deserved win. It was Michael’s 91st and final Formula One victory - and undoubtedly one of his finest.

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