Eighth French win for Schumacher 16 Jul 2006
At Indianapolis it was assumed that Bridgestone had an improved tyre while Michelin were being conservative. At Magny-Cours this afternoon, however, it became clear just how much progress the Japanese tyre manufacturer has made in recent weeks as Michael Schumacher, Ferrari and Bridgestone decimated the challenge of Fernando Alonso, Renault and Michelin. The Spaniard ultimately finished 10 seconds behind as Schumacher scored his 88th victory, but in reality the gap may well have been closer to 30 as Schumacher undoubtedly backed off in the closing laps.
The gap between them may only have shrunk to 17 points after Renaults two-stop strategy put Alonso ahead of three-stopping Felipe Massa, but the writing on the wall would suggest that Michelin may have an awful lot to do before Hockenheim in a fortnights time.
This may not have been a classic race, with little overtaking, but the opening lap was entertaining as Alonso so nearly squeezed ahead of Massa before the Brazilian discouraged his attempt to pass. Thereafter Alonso ran third through the first pit stops but eventually moved ahead thanks to a very long second stint compared to Massas two further stops. Schumacher also stopped three times, but though Alonso maintained his record of leading each race this season (laps 39 to 42) he was never in a position to challenge for the win.
Behind Massa, a two-stop strategy also helped Ralf Schumacher to a useful fourth for Toyota ahead of three-stopping Kimi Raikkonen, two-stopping Giancarlo Fisichella, and three-stopping Pedro de la Rosa who scored two more points on his return for McLaren, but came to a smoky halt on the slowing down lap. The final point went to two-stopping Nick Heidfeld and BMW Sauber ahead of David Coulthard and Scott Speed, who battled against back pain throughout the afternoon. They were all a lap down, together with Jacques Villeneuve, Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi. Nico Rosberg was 14th, two laps adrift, ahead of Christijan Albers and Franck Montagny.
Super Aguri lost Takuma Sato early; after having trouble leaving the grid for the formation lap, he only got as far as Turn Six on the first lap before his SA05 ground to a halt. Tiago Monteiro retired on the eighth lap after spinning behind Montagny in the final chicane and then damaging his Midland as it took off after hitting the kerb. Hondas problems deepened as neither Rubens Barrichello nor Jenson Button finished after weak performances, while Jarno Trullis chances of fourth place evaporated with brake problems after 39 laps.
And at Williams, Mark Webbers hopes of a much-needed point fell victim to problems with his left-rear Bridgestone tyre running over temperature. After surviving a spectacular spin as a result, he eventually retired after five stops following a wheel rim failure which caused too much damage for him to continue.
The race result gave Michael Schumacher yet another new record - that of winning a race for the eighth time, and marked his 150th podium result.