Ferrari bounce back on home soil 23 Apr 2006
For much of San Marino Grand Prix it looked as if Michael Schumacher was going to lose his lead to the flying Fernando Alonso - and that Ferraris resurgence might be over barely after it had started.
After a storming start, Schumacher looked set fair as he pulled steadily away from the chasing Jenson Button. He looked even stronger after principal challenger Fernando Alonso was baulked behind Schumachers team mate Felipe Massa just before making his first pitstop.
But within laps of emerging from his first stop, Schumacher suffered from a dramatic loss of pace as his tyres grained. Soon Alonso was reeling him in at nearly two seconds a lap - and it looked almost certain that the Renault would find its way past and into a comfortable lead.
The fact that the Alonso didnt manage to take the lead was down, in roughly equal measure, to the notorious difficultly of passing at the Imola circuit, and also to Michael Schumachers dogged defence of his position - bringing his vast experience to bear on the challenge of keeping Alonso behind.
And it worked. The Renault teams frustration caused them to bring Alonso in for his second stop earlier than expected, to try and get the jump on Schumacher for the final stint of the race. Ferrari responded in the only way they could, bringing Schumacher in on the next lap - with some nifty pitwork allowing him to emerge just ahead of Alonso. And thats how it stayed to the flag - Alonso sitting in the quicker car, but unable to find his way past Schumachers Ferrari.
The result was Ferraris first win since last years controversial Indianapolis Grand Prix (where only six cars made the start). It was the teams first victory in a fully contested race since the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix. Victory adds even further to Schumachers tally of race wins, which now stands at 85 - on the same weekend he finally overtook Ayrton Sennas pole position record.
The Tifosi were clearly delighted by a home victory, as was Schumacher in the post-race press conference. But Ferrari know, as does the rest of the paddock, that Renault remain the team to beat.