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Massa's victory, but Alonso's title 22 Oct 2006

The podium (L to R): second placed Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault; race winner Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari and third placed Jenson Button (GBR) Honda Racing F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006 Race winner Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari celebrates on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006 Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari congratulates race winner Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006 Nico Rosberg (GER) Williams FW28 has a big crash at the final corner.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006 Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault celebrates second position and his World Championship on the podium.
Formula One World Championship, Rd 18, Brazilian Grand Prix, Race, Interlagos, Brazil, 22 October 2006

Alonso keeps his cool as puncture hits Schumacher's hopes

Second place in the Brazilian Grand Prix - behind the uncatchable Felipe Massa in the Ferrari and mere lengths ahead of Jenson Button’s Honda - was sufficient to clinch the world championship for Renault’s Fernando Alonso, as arch-rival Michael Schumacher had to drive a champion’s race back to fourth place after a puncture on the ninth lap forced him into the pits.

If the main tension went out of the championship chase early on, it was nevertheless a stunning race, with Alonso, Button and McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen scrapping all the way for the podium places.

Massa, the first Brazilian to win his home race since Ayrton Senna’s emotional victory back in 1993, grabbed the lead from the start, ahead of Raikkonen, Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Alonso. Further back, Schumacher ran wheel-to-wheel with the BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld until the safety car was deployed after Williams’ Nico Rosberg crashed heavily at the end of the lap, bringing out the safety car for six laps. Rosberg’s demise was almost certainly linked to damage caused by a tangle with team mate Mark Webber at the start, which also forced the Australian into the pits and retirement.

As racing resumed on lap 7, Schumacher pushed Giancarlo Fisichella in the second Renault and overtook him on lap 9, only to slow immediately with a shredded left-rear tyre. As Massa led easily from Raikkonen, and Alonso stroked along in third place with Fisichella riding shotgun after the early demise of both Toyotas, Schumacher fell way down to 19th place.

The German then drove a fabulous race, setting a string of fastest laps as he clawed his way back past Rubens Barrichello in the Honda, forced Fisichella into a mistake on the 63rd lap, and then pushed down the inside of Raikkonen going into Turn One on the 69th, even though at times his Ferrari showed continuing signs of the fuel pressure problem that had humbled it in qualifying.

It was thus a bittersweet race for Ferrari, with Massa driving the race of his life, but Renault’s second and sixth places securing them the constructors’ championship too, 206 points to Ferrari’s 200.

Button drove superbly to finish feet behind Alonso, with Schumacher leading Raikkonen narrowly and Fisichella heading Barrichello. A strong one-stop drive brought Pedro de la Rosa in the second McLaren the final point.

BMW Sauber had a torrid day, with Robert Kubica having to settle for ninth and Nick Heidfeld crashing heavily close to the finish, but they retained fifth place ahead of Toyota in the constructors’ championship.

Takuma Sato was one of the stars of the race with a faultless and feisty run to 10th for Super Aguri, leading Toro Rosso’s Scott Speed home ahead of Robert Doornbos in the Red Bull, Tonio Liuzzi in the second Toro Rosso, Christijan Albers and Tiago Monteiro in the two Spyker MF1s and Sakon Yamamoto in the second Super Aguri. Besides the Williams pilots, the other retirement was Red Bull’s David Coulthard.

Thus ended Michael Schumacher’s Formula One career, but he pulled down the curtain with dignity and a drive that left nobody in doubt that he is retiring at the very peak of his ability.