The 2006 Chinese was a key race in Michael Schumacher’s attempt to ‘retire’ from Formula One with his eighth world title. But was it in vain?
Renault’s Fernando Alonso took pole for the race ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella in wet conditions. Alonso topped all three sessions while both Michael Schumacher struggled and only managed sixth. Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were joint third, sharing 1m 45.503s, and Raikkonen took fifth on 1m 45.754s.
Michael Schumacher took his final ever race win which moved him to level on points with championship rival Fernando Alonso with just a race remaining. Schumacher had looked out of the race as Alonso pulled away at the start to build a twenty-five-second lead.
Schumacher chose not to switch his tyres at the first stop, while Alonso did. This was a bad move as the new tyres didn’t give him as much performance as the old set. Plus, the right rear wheel nut in Alonso’s second stop cost him at least seven seconds.
By the midpoint of the race, Alonso’s teammate Giancarlo Fisichella was leading but under attack from Schumacher. Until his stop, it was a good stop but when he ran wide re-joining allowing Schumacher to take the lead where he remained until the chequered flag.
BMW’s Nick Heidfeld came unstuck after Jenson Button tried to pass team-mate Rubens Barrichello spun, hitting the back of him. Button slid wide at one stage and fell behind McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa. He eventually recovered and repassed the Spaniard when De la Rosa made a mistake of his own. With button fourth, De la Rosa fifth and Barrichello sixth.
William’s Mark Webber finished eighth, following a spin by David Coulthard which caused him to hit Felipe Massa, taking him out of the race. Sauber’s Robert Kubica had an up and down race, getting shoved down the order early on in the opening lap melees in heavy standing water and high spray; later he was the first to switch to dries, just before the track was ready.
Podium – Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso, Giancarlo Fisichella. While there were five retirements and Takuma Sato was disqualified from a fourteenth place for blocking faster drivers.
What will it be remembered for?
The 2006 Chinese Grand Prix will be remembered as the last victory for Michael Schumacher and it if he did not return maybe we wouldn’t doubt his ability. It proved despite his ‘retirement’ he was not slowing down and was gunning to go out with a bang as an eight times champion.