Battling drive brings well-deserved podium finish
After a torrid start to their 2006 season, Ralf Schumacher finally delivered some good news for the Toyota team with a strong drive to third place in the Australian Grand Prix.
Not that his journey to six points was anything like smooth sailing. Not only did he survive a first-lap tussle with team mate Jarno Trulli as both cars vyed for position, but later on he was forced to take a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.
After a difficult time in Bahrain and Malaysia, Toyotas luck seemed to have changed in Australia, with Ralf qualifying in sixth place and Trulli lining up in eighth, the Williams of Mark Webber sandwiched between them.
Ralf got off to a good start, despite his clash with Trulli, and was soon running in fourth place, before dropping behind Montoya and the flying Webber. After his first pitstop - and the penalty for speeding in the pitlane that was imposed shortly afterwards - Ralf dropped all the way back to eighth place, and his hopes of salvaging anything more than one or two points from the race seemed to be at an end.
His progress up the order was a result of a combination of good judgement and luck at staying out of the clashes and crashes that decimated the front order in the second half of the race. First Michael Schumacher triggered another safety-car period after a spectacular crash on the exit of the final corner, spinning into the wall after he ran wide and lost control of his car on the grass. Montoyas retirement in almost the same place, after his car appeared to shut down following a near-miss on the grass that had claimed Michael, promoted Ralf another place - and after getting past fellow German Nick Heidfeld, he held onto a comfortable third place to the flag.
The result gives him a much-needed boost in the championship standings, with seven points hes now seventh, just two points behind McLarens Juan-Pablo Montoya. It also lifts Toyota to sixth in the constructors' championship.