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The Buildup to the 2006 Chinese Grand Prix
As they came up to the Chinese Grand Prix, the sixteenth race of the 2006 season, the Ferraris were going neck-to-neck with the Renaults for both the constructors' and the drivers' championship. Renault was confident of going up with a win, as the Chinese GP was the only race that Michael Schumacher had yet to tame. Michael's previous two outings at the Chinese circuit had been anything but great.
The qualifying seemed to predict what the Renault team were already confident of – an easy win. The Renault team of Alonso and Fisichella qualified one and two with Michael at sixth position. However, the race started in conditions very familiar to Michael. In fact, Michael had learned to master those conditions, and there was literally no one to compare with him in those conditions. What were we talking about? It had rained, and the circuit was wet.
So maybe conditions were waiting for Michael to pull out yet another great win. Or were they?
The Five Lights Go Off: "Chinese GP is a Go"
Those were the words of the legendary F1 commentator, Murray, who charged up the counting of the five red lights at every GP. His voice was what livened up a GP, to be honest.
The race started with Alonso pulling away, and the Renault of Fisichella, in second place, was holding back the other cars.
But rain-soaked circuits were something Michael Schumacher had seen up close and personal, and he had conquered them each time. Back in the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix, Michael and his partner Barrichello had, in fact, gone off track and still managed to win the race. In comparison, this was an easier race.
Take a look at the 2001 Malaysian Grand Prix.
See how Michael fought back? Strategy too played a role.
We digressed, so coming back to the Chinese GP, there was a train of cars building up behind Fisichella until Raikkonen blasted past. He then caught up with Alonso. In the meantime, Michael made it behind Fisichella in fourth place. Sadly for Raikkonen, his car gave up, and he retired.
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In no time, the top three caught up and formed a chain of two Renaults and a Ferrari. Michael followed behind Fisichella, overtaking Alonso. The line-up remained that way for a while until Fisichella coming out of the pits, lost grip, and gave Michael a glimpse of the inside line. That was all that Michael was waiting for; he promptly went in with two tires on the grass and overtook Fisichella. Michael then took the top spot.
Take a look at all the overtakes that Michael managed, with Fisichella’s overtake being the last one.
To be fair to Alonso, as the track began to dry up a bit, his Renault started to sing a different tune. The Spaniard started eating up the 50-second lead in no time. However, Michael still reigned, ending the race with a 3-second lead over Alonso.
Here is the highlight of the race:
That’s basically the story of Michael Schumacher’s 91st win!!
The win in the race brought Michael head-to-head with Alonso on the points table. However, the rest of the races of the season went Alonso’s way, and Alonso was, eventually crowned the F1 champion for 2006.
At the end of the season, Michael retired from F1, but not before giving the world some new statistics to contend with. What were those statistics? Among others:
- Most wins (91)
- Most pole positions,
- Most "fastest laps"
- Most wins in a particular circuit
- Most wins in a season
Almost all record books had Michael Schumacher’s name on the list, and mostly at the top spot.
Back to the Garage
Although this was his last win, Michael left the charts at a new high which even after thirteen years (from first retirement) stands unchallenged. Sooner or later records will be broken, and that’s how things work.
But, with or without statistics, it has to be accepted that the world witnessed one of the greatest to grace the F1 sport!
© 2019 S K