F1 2006 Review: Race-by-race

Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, 2006, start (2)The teams meet for the first race of the season, with different looking cars, some in strange new colour schemes.

Then, in no time at all, the chequered flag is falling for the final time and a new champion is crowned.

This year saw controversy off and on the track, but the season was redeemed by some occasionally brilliant races, a thrilling championship duel, and some stand-out performances – particularly from Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher.

Here we remember the highlights.

Nico Rosberg, Williams-Cosworth, Bahrain, 2006Bahrain Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen

Ferrari locked out the front row of the grid but Fernando Alonso muscled past Felipe Massa at the start. Massa then spun off leaving Alonso undisturbed in his pursuit of Schumacher, who he overhauled at the final pit stop.

A promising third on the grid for Jenson Button became fourth at the flag as Raikkonen rose from last on the grid (due to suspension failure in qualifying) to third. Debutante Nico Rosberg, despite a first-lap clash, drove to an impressive seventh, setting the fastest lap.

Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang, 2006, Start (2)Malaysian Grand Prix
Podium: Fisichella, Alonso, Button

A refuelling error in qualifying left Alonso seventh on the grid, but a lightning start elevated him to third by the first corner. Schumacher languished back in 14th after an engine failure.

Most unusually, on this day both championship protagonists were beaten by their team mates. After passing Button, Alonso turned the wick down on his engine and followed Giancarlo Fisichella home for Renault’s only one-two of the year, and Massa lead the Ferraris in fifth and sixth having started 21st.

Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Melbourne, 2006 (3)Australian Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, Raikkonen, R. Schumacher

Button took pole but, like many drivers, struggled to get his tyres up to temperature in an unseasonably cool race.

Alonso took the lead and calmly remained there while the Ferraris, Juan Pablo Montoya and many others crashed out. Button engine exploded within sight of the flag, gifting fifth to Fisichella, and Ralf Schumacher gave Toyota their only podium of the year.

Rubens Barrichello, Honda, Imola, 2006San Marino Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Montoya

The Ferraris finally got on terms with the Renaults and Schumacher claimed the win as Ross Brawn outfoxed Pat Symonds in a purely tactical duel.

Super Aguri’s Yuji Ide was dropped at the encouragement of the FIA after tipping Christijan Albers into a frightening barrel-roll.

Nurburgring, 2006European Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Massa

Renault put Alonso on an aggressive strategy in an effort to keep him ahead of the Ferrari, but Schumacher got ahead at the final round of pit stops.

Kimi Raikkonen’s flat-out drive to fourth strongly indicated that McLaren did not have the pace to win races on merit.

Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Start, 2006 (3)Spanish Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, Schumacher, Fisichella

Alonso scorched ahead of the field at the start of his home Grand Prix and never looked like being beaten. Schumacher did well to jump Fisichella during the pit stops to take second.

Montoya tested McLaren’s patience by spinning out – and then blaming the car. Ralf Schumacher was also in the doghouse after running into team mate Jarno Trulli.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Monte-Carlo, 2006 (2)Monaco Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, Montoya, Coulthard

Schumacher caused outrage in practice by stopping his Ferrari intentionally at Rascasse to impede the other drivers. After hours of deliberation the stewards threw him to the back of the grid.

Alonso had to fight hard to keep Raikkonen and Mark Webber at bay, but the pressure came off when both retired. David Coulthard gave Red Bull their first ever podium.

British Grand Prix, grid, Silverstone, 2006British Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen

Alonso was untouchable at Silverstone and cruised to victory. Home hero Button suffered a dire weekend, qualifying 19th and retiring on lap nine after performing some of the race’s very few overtaking manoeuvres.

Jacques Villeneuve, BMW, Montreal, 2006Canadian Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, M. Schumacher, Raikkonen

A fourth consecutive victory for Alonso gave everyone the impression the championship was over and done with.

Schumacher capitalised on a late mistake by Raikkonen to dive past the McLaren driver for second.

United States Grand Prix, Indianapolis, 2006, StartUnited States Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Massa, Fisichella

The Indianapolis weekend was a turning point in many ways. Ferrari and Bridgestone hit their stride and dominated the weekend, Alonso struggled and suddenly it was game on for the championship.

Montoya inadvertently triggered and first-corner shunt that led to him leaving Formula One.

Behind the scenes, Schumacher decided that he would retire at the end of the year.

Mark Webber, Pedro de la Rosa, Magny-Cours, 2006French Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Massa

With Ferrari in the ascendancy now it was Alonso’s turn to seize every point he could. He masterfully out-raced Massa to fourth via a superior strategy, but once again there was precious little passing.

Ralf Schumacher’s fourth for Toyota indicated that today was a Bridgestone day. Franck Montagny finished last in his final race for Super Aguri, before being replaced by Sakon Yamamoto.

German Grand Prix, Hockenheimring, 2006, startGerman Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Massa, Raikkonen

A third consecutive win for Schumacher came amid the controversial banning of Renault’s mass dampers, which further impeded their performance.

Both Midlands were disqualified for using illegal rear wings.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2006 (2)Hungarian Grand Prix
Podium: Button, de la Rosa, Heidfeld

Neither of the championship protagonists started within the top ten after incurring penalties in practice.

A wet track provoked an unusually incident-packed Hungarian Grand Prix. Raikkonen crashed and Alonso’s right rear wheel nut failed. Schumacher clashed with Pedro de la Rosa and Nick Heidfeld and was lucky to take a solitary point after the disqualification of Robert Kubica, who had replaced Jacques Villeneuve at BMW.

At the front of the field an elated Button claimed his first ever Grand Prix victory.

Fernando Alonso, Michael Schumacher, Istanbul, 2006 (2)Turkish Grand Prix
Podium: Massa, Alonso, M. Schumacher

Schumacher found himself second behind Massa on the grid after two mistakes in qualifying, which compromised him badly when he lost track position to Alonso under a safety car period. He chased the Renault driver hard but failed to pass him for third.

That left Massa to become the second consecutive first-time Grand Prix winner of the year.

Michael Schumacher, Ferrari, Monza, 2006 (2)Italian Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Raikkonen, Kubica

The worst controversy of the season unfolded when Alonso was given a poorly justified penalty for allegedly impeding Massa. He started tenth and drove a strong race to run third before his engine failed.

Schumacher won easily and announced his retirement. Almost unnoticed, Kubica scored his first podium finish in only his third start.

Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai, 2006, startChinese Grand Prix
Podium: M. Schumacher, Alonso, Fisichella

More woe for Alonso as pit stop problems let a potential win slip through his fingers – and into Schumacher’s.

The Ferrari driver put in an outstanding performance given the poor grip of his Bridgestone rubber in the wet, but Alonso lost the race with a mistaken decision to change his front tyres at his first pit stop, and a dropped wheel nut at his final stop.

Webber finally gave Williams their first points since the European Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso, Ralf Schumacher, Suzuka, 2006Japanese Grand Prix
Podium: Alonso, Massa, Fisichella

Another shocking twist in the championship battle. The one-lap pace of the Bridgestone tyres astonished the pit lane as even the Toyotas were able to out qualify the Renaults.

Alonso passed Trulli and Ralf Schumacher in his first stint and leapt past Massa via his pit stop. This brought him within five seconds of the leading Ferrari, but any hope of a showdown between the two where dashed when Schumacher’s engine blew.

Button, enjoying a fine end to the year, beat Raikkonen to fourth while Trulli frustrated team mate Ralf Schumacher by holding him up as the two finished seventh and eighth.

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Interlagos, 2006 (5)Brazilian Grand Prix
Podium: Massa, Alonso, Button

Schumacher needed to win with Alonso not scoring to be champion – but it proved beyond the seven-time champion on his final appearance.

He was the man of the race, though, charging back from nineteenth to fourth after a puncture, decisively slicing past Raikkonen in the dying stages.

Massa took his second win in front of a rapturous home crowd while Alonso’s second place was more than enough to guarantee him the title.

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