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Schumacher Takes San Marino Victory

Schumacher Takes San Marino Victory

Michael Schumacher has converted his pole position at Imola into his first win since the 2005 US Grand Prix, and his first in 18 months when competing against similarly paced cars. In a processional race, Michael led from the start and despite a slow middle stint, Schumacher managed to defend his place to a charging Fernando Alonso.

Lap one saw an incident caused by the inexperienced Yuji Ide when he tried to sneak up the inside of Albers. However, the gap just wasn’t big enough and the Japanese driver clipped the rear right tyre of Alber’s Midland which sent him into a somersault through the gravel. Chistijan walked away from the incident, but it is scenes like these that raise questions as to the validity of running vastly inexperienced drivers in a sport where the smallest of errors or mis-judgment can lead to potentially serious accidents.

After a short safety car period, the field restarted, and again Michael Schumacher fended off his opponents and skated away up the circuit. Until the first stop, it looked as though the Ferrari had the edge, and whilst Michael didn’t thrash everyone else, the race looked to be under control of the Italian team and Schumacher appeared to be comfortable, setting some blistering lap times in comparison to the Renaults, Hondas and McLarens. However, when Michael rejoined, it was clear that something wasn’t right with his scarlet car, and his lap times spiralled down to three seconds off his pre-stop pace. This allowed Alonso (who managed to pass a [deliberately?] slow Massa in the first stop) to scream up behind the Ferrari and harrass Michael for the remainder of the race. It was a reverse of last years race, where in 2005 Michael was the one who had to sit and wait behind the Renault. This time around though, it appeared to be Alonso who was having trouble passing, and every attempt to consider a run up the inside was blighted by the experienced German closing the door.

As the second round of pit stops drew closer, the general thought of the proceedings was that Fernando would stop after Michael. With more fuel on board and an obviously faster car, Alonso would have found it reasonably easy to pull out a handful of fast laps and would have been able to pass Schumacher in the pits. However, a late decision from the Renault pit wall made Alonso stop first. His stop was good, but unfortuantely for the French squad, Schumacher pulled a lap from deep within himself and when Ferrari responded on the very next tour of the circuit, Alonso found himself just behind the Ferrari, yet again.

Alonso then had to try and pass Michael before the chequered flag, but found the Ferrari was fairing slightly better then before, and couldn’t find a safe (ish) way around him. Three laps from the end, the young Spaniard made a small error coming out of the Villeneuve corner, running wide and allowing Schumacher to ease out a small gap. This mistake from Alonso made it almost impossible for him to pass Michael, and the 7 times world champion won his first race since the ill-fated US grand Prix last year.

Ferrari have undoubtedly made strides in the performance of their car, but the fact remains that Renault are still the team to beat at this stage of the season. It is hard to fault Michael today and he drive a solid race overcoming problems and keeping himself just enough ahead of Alonso to prevent any upsets. It is worth pointing out though that Imola is tradtionally a Ferrari track and a circuit that favours Bridgestone tyres. In two weeks the F1 circus travels to the Nurburgring in Germany, where Schumacher should have anoother good run, but I feel that unless further strides are made, Ferrari may find to following races even more difficult to beat Renault.

Much talk will be made of Fernando’s final pit stop. Pat Symonds from the team has admitted that they could have gone longer, but hindsight is 20:20, and after winning the first three races, Renault had to surely make one mistake. I’m sure that despite picking up eight points for Alonso and one point for Fisichella, the French squad will want to forget about this race and move on to Germany in a fortnight with the intention of regaining control.

Juan Pablo Montoya finished third after a problem with both of Jenson Button‘s pit stops enabled the Colombian to quietly move up the field. And speaking of bad luck for the Briton, Button had [another] disappointing race where things just didn’t go right for him. After the start, Button managed to keep the pace of the leaders and he looked to be on for a podium. He came in for his first stop and all was looking good until a problem with one of the tyres lost him three or four seconds. Working hard through in the middle stint, he still looked good. However, his hopes were dashed when at the second stop, Jenson managed to drive away from the garage with the fuel rig still attached.

To be fair to Jenson, the blame for the incident was probably 90% in favour of the lollipop man. The lollipop (which signals to the driver to plant the throttle and release the clutch) was raised too early, and Jenson reacted sharply and started to pull away. Seeing that the fuel rig was still attached, the lollipop came back down again and clouted Button on his helmet, but the car had already started to move and the best Jenson could do was stop the car a bit further up the pit lane. Although no one was hurt, things like this make me wince at the TV as they can so easily be a lot worse. I can understand why it took Jenson a seemingly long time to stop the car, as his mind would have been completely focused on going. He wouldn’t have looked in his mirrors, and until he actually hit the lollipop, he probably didn’t even see it coming back down or know that there was any problem. This catalog of pit stop errors ruined Button’s race, and all the Brit could managed was 7th place.

Felipe Massa finished 4th, and whilst he too had a quiet race, the young Brazilian managed to almost peg his team mate in the first few laps. However, the apparent slowing down prior to the first stops spoiled the moment for me. Whilst he is contracted to the team, I still find these occurances somewhat annoying.

Kimi Raikkonen finished just behind the second Ferrari, and Mark Webber had a good day coming home 6th and picking up a further 3 points for Williams.

Fisichella climbed to 8th before the end of the race, and Ralf Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello complete the top ten.

All in all, an uneventful race. Unfortuantely, the only real noteworthy events were for the wrong reasons – Alber’s flip and Button’s pit lane exploits. But it is nice to see someone other than Alonso win, even if it is a Ferrari!

Final Result

1. M Schumacher – Ferrari

2. Alonso – Renault

3. Montoya – McLaren

4. Massa – Ferrari

5. Raikkonen – McLaren

6. Webber – Williams

7. Button – Honda

8. Fisichella – Renault

9. R Schumacher – Toyota

10. Barrichello – Honda

11. Rosberg – Williams

12. Villeneuve – BMW Sauber

13. Heidfeld – BMW Sauber

14. Liuzzi – Toro Rosso

15. Speed – Toro Rosso

16. Monteiro – Midland

Ret. Coulthard – Red Bull

Ret. Sato – Super Aguri

Ret. Klien – Red Bull

Ret. Trulli – Toyota

Ret. Albers – Midland

Ret. Ide – Super Aguri

Oliver White

2 comments

  • The most frustrating race I’ve ever seen EVER.

    Button was saying that the cars go from 0-60 in whatever many seconds, so he couldn’t have stopped any quicker if he’d wanted to. Typical British bad luck, I guess.

  • I agree. Once a driver has started to move like that and is totally focused, he isn’t much more than a pasenger until his mind catches up on what is happening. I’m sure one day he’ll win.

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