Schumacher and Ferrari do it again 07 May 2006
Michael Schumacher drove his Ferrari to his remarkable 86th career victory in front of his home fans at the Nurburgring this after, turning what had initially appeared to be a nip and tuck race into a rout of Fernando Alonso and Renault after the second pit stops.
Content to trail the series leaders for the first 38 laps, the former champion swept into the lead when Alonso refuelled for the second time on lap 38, and was still ahead of the Renault when he rejoined after his own second and final stop three crucial laps later. When Kimi Raikkonen refuelled his leading McLaren on lap 44, Schumacher went back ahead and was thereafter never threatened as Alonso had fallen more than seven seconds behind.
As Michael cruised to the flag, Alonso, who had seemingly settled for second place and another eight points, was obliged to speed up a little as he responded to pressure from Felipe Massa and a recovering Raikkonen, but though the three of them finished nose to tail there was no stopping the jubilant German. Making it a great day for Ferrari, Massa celebrated the first podium finish of his burgeoning career.
Fifth place was the focus of an equally intense battle between Hondas Rubens Barrichello, Renaults Giancarlo Fisichella and Williams Nico Rosberg. They crossed the line nose-to-tail too. Jacques Villeneuve, who had earlier held his BMW Sauber ahead of qualifying nemesis Fisichella, brought the car home eighth for the final point.
Jenson Button lasted only 28 laps, his Honda appearing to blow its engine going past the pits as he lay fifth; Juan Pablo Montoya lost ninth place when his McLaren stopped on lap 53, and Ralf Schumacher lost sixth when his Toyota blew its engine at the same time.
Jarno Trullis TF106 was a lapped ninth ahead of Nick Heidfelds BMW Sauber, Scott Speeds Toro Rosso and the battling Midlands of Tiago Monteiro and Christijan Albers.
Tonio Liuzzi was a first-corner casualty after tangling with Red Bull stable mate David Coulthard. Liuzzi got his damaged Toro Rosso as far as Turn 10 where it spun to a halt as the right rear tyre was off the rim. That brought out the safety car for the first two laps. Coulthard later pulled off after a first-lap stop for repairs. Making it a bad day for Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, Christian Klien stopped on lap 29, while battling Heidfeld for 13th.
Mark Webber also pulled off track, having run strongly from the back of the field with a full fuel load. Neither of the Super Aguris made it home either; Franck Montagnys engine broke on lap 31 and briefly set the back of the SA05 alight, while Takuma Sato, having made a brilliant start to run 14th at the end of the first lap, pulled straight into his garage on lap 43.
A great race, great strategy and great performance all the way through, Schumacher beamed after his victory. Ive had no doubt all season that we would be in a position to fight for the championship, and this proves it.
The result puts Schumacher a little closer to Alonso, 44 points to 31, but Renault still have a sizeable advantage in the constructors stakes with 62 points to Ferraris 46 and McLarens 39. With Barcelona coming up next week, Alonso believes that Renault and Michelin will be very strong there, but Michael Schumacher also believes that Ferrari will be just as good as they were here. The Championship is well and truly hotting up.