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Ferrari bounce back on home soil 23 Apr 2006

Race winner Michael Schumacher (GER) Ferrari sprays the champgane on the podium with Jean Todt (FRA) Ferrari Sporting Director.
Formula One World Championship, Rd4, San Marino Grand Prix, Race Day, Imola, Italy, 23 April 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 Ferrari’s 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 Schumacher’s 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 didn’t 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 Schumacher’s dogged defence of his position - bringing his vast experience to bear on the challenge of keeping Alonso behind.

And it worked. The Renault team’s 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 that’s how it stayed to the flag - Alonso sitting in the quicker car, but unable to find his way past Schumacher’s Ferrari.

The result was Ferrari’s first win since last year’s controversial Indianapolis Grand Prix (where only six cars made the start). It was the team’s first victory in a fully contested race since the 2004 Japanese Grand Prix. Victory adds even further to Schumacher’s tally of race wins, which now stands at 85 - on the same weekend he finally overtook Ayrton Senna’s 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.