|Japanese GP: Michael blows his engine, Fernando almost Worldchampion|
Saturday, 07 October 2006 23:18
Michael Schumachers Ferrari, always a reliable car, blows his engine during the Japanese Grand Prix, thus handing Alonso his win. Alonso now takes a ten point lead, with just 1 race to go. Fernando now is virtually world champion. Only hope for Michael is that Fernando wil not finish in Brazil, while Michael wins.
Fernando Alonso took a huge step towards securing the 2006 Formula One World Championship by winning today’s Japanese Grand Prix. His rival Michael Schumacher failed to finish the race with a blown engine.
The Spaniard made a great start from fifth position and was up to fourth straight away. Felipe Massa led the field from pole position with Michael Schumacher second and Ralf Schumacher third. Jarno Trulli slotted into fifth with Button sixth, Fisichella seventh and Heidfeld eighth.
At the start of the third lap, Michael Schumacher eased alongside his team-mate and the Brazilian put up little fight in allowing him through and into a lead which would be essential for the title.
Fernando was pushing as hard as he could to try and pass Ralf, as up ahead Michael Schumacher was pulling out from Massa. But the Spaniard pushed just a touch too hard, running wide at Degna on the tenth lap and allowing Jarno Trulli to get within sniffing distance of his rear wing.
Two laps later however and Trulli was in the pits for his first scheduled stop, while out on track, Fernando had put in a couple of stunning laps to catch back up to Ralf and duly overtook him with an incisive and bold move at the First Curve.
One lap later and Massa and Ralf both pitted, with the German exiting behind his team-mate Trulli. Fernando now found himself in some clean air and was rattling off fastest laps with every tour while his team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella pitted on lap 14. Fernando pitted next time by, and his brace of mega laps had seen him pull out enough to exit the stands ahead of Massa.
The Brazilian found himself stuck behind the BMW of Heidfeld who was yet to pit, and with the German proving hard to pass Massa was losing time. Schumacher meanwhile was looking untouchable in the lead, and when he duly took his pitstop, he emerged with more than five seconds in hand over Fernando.
The order now saw Michael Schumacher leading Alonso, Massa, Raikkonen, Trulli, Ralf, Fisichella and Kubica, but the Finn and the Pole had yet to stop.
On lap 20 Albers had a scary moment as his rear wing appeared to give way, taking out the Dutchman’s rear right wheel and suspension as it collapsed. Debris was thrown over the track on the braking zone into the final chicane.
Lap 22 saw Raikkonen take his stop and emerge in eighth place, while a few laps later Schumacher caught up with the back markers. Barrichello, Liuzzi, Speed, Doornbos and Coulthard all lay ahead in formation, but the German started to scythe through them. Fernando had been catching the German at a rate of around half a second a lap for the previous four laps, and as Schumacher negotiated the backmarkers, Fernando got even closer.
But the Spaniard then had to contend with passing the same drivers, and the gap between Schumacher and the Spaniard ebbed and flowed as they passed the slower cars, eventually emerging with the same five second gap with which they had arrived at the now-passed cars.
By now the second round of stops was upon us, with Trulli and Ralf Schumacher being the first to come in on laps 29 and 30, while Giancarlo came in three laps later. On lap 36 Fernando and Massa pitted together, and the leader was in one lap later.
The order was maintained after the stops… but not for long, as no sooner had Michael Schumacher exited the pits than his Ferrari engine let go. As smoke billowed from the back of the scarlet car, so Schumacher’s title hopes seemed to go with it.
Fernando now led the race, and with Schumacher out would take a ten point lead in the championship battle. All he had to do as hold on… and hold on he did.
Fernando ran home a worthy winner, 16 seconds ahead of Felipe Massa, with Giancarlo third to help Renault pull out a nine point gap from Ferrari in the constructors’ championship battle. Jenson Button ran home fourth for Honda, with Raikkonen fifth, Trulli sixth, Ralf Schumacher seventh and Nick Heidfeld picking up the final point in eighth.
Now it’s on to Brazil for the final race of what has been an amazing season. From a point of complete parity, Fernando and Renault now hold an undeniable and absolutely crucial advantage in both championships. A single point for Fernando will wrap up the crown next time out.
|Last Updated on Sunday, 08 October 2006 01:11|