Formula 1: Eighth French win for Schumacher

Formula 1: Eighth French win for Schumacher  
Filed under:
on 07/16/2006


The 2006 championship has become even closer after another strong drive to victory by Michael Schumacher in France. But the Ferrari whitewash that many anticipated after the team’s dominant qualifying performance didn’t happen, with some clever strategy from the Renault team promoting Fernando Alonso into second place. Felipe Massa took the final podium position in the second Ferrari. The race was one of the hottest of the season so far, the baking heat in France translating to track temperatures that peaked at around 55 degrees Celsius. Both Ferraris made strong starts and Schumacher was quickly building a lead over the rest of the pack, while Massa protected his team mate in second and Alonso chased hard in third place.

But while most of the front-runners opted for three-stop strategies, Renault brought Alonso in for fuel and tyres twice, allowing him to leapfrog Massa during the second round of pitstops - an advantage he held to the flag.

It was a strong race for Toyota as well. Not only did Trulli qualify in P4 and Ralf Schumacher in P5, but both briefly led the race during the first round of pitstops. Trulli will have been very disappointed to retire with mechanical problems, but Ralf kept going and - aided by another two-stop strategy – came home in a strong fourth place.

Kimi Raikkonen ended the race in fifth place for McLaren, with Giancarlo Fisichella visibly lacking the pace of his team mate and bringing his Renault home in sixth. Pedro de la Rosa, making his 2006 debut as replacement for Juan Pablo Montoya, will have done his prospects of hanging onto the race seat no harm with a determined drive to seventh - despite being baulked by Mark Webber early in the race. And Nick Heidfeld claimed the final world championship point with an eighth-place finish.

It was another disappointing weekend for both Williams and McLaren. Webber had a lucky escape when his rear-left tyre apparently delaminated. He came into the pits to replace it, but the new tyre also suffered from problems and - after no fewer than five visits to the pitlane - he eventually retired. Nico Rosberg tried hard, but couldn’t manage better than a 14th place finish, a lack of pace which will likely lead to some serious thinking at Williams’ Oxfordshire HQ.

And Honda had another frustrating weekend - both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello suffering from dismal qualifying performance and then retiring from lowly positions in the race itself.

In the constructors’ championship, Ferrari has now closed to within 21 points of Renault, while Alonso’s lead in the drivers’ championship has been cut to 17 points over Michael Schumacher.

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