Sunday, September 10, 2006

Alonso's engine let's go, Michael wins 90th GP

Michael Schumacher’s emotional victory in today’s Italian Grand Prix has helped him narrow the championship gap to Fernando Alonso down to a mere two points.

The seven-time world champion delighted the partisan home Ferrari crowd with a dominant victory on the same day that the announced his retirement from Formula 1.

But it was a bitter-tasting weekend for world champion Alonso, who suffered setbacks in qualifying and a soul-destroying engine blow-up on lap 44 when a podium finish was almost certainly within his grasp.

Schumacher had been shaded in the early laps by pole-sitter Kimi Raïkkönen, whose resurgent McLaren-Mercedes had the legs of the German until the first pitstops. Michael eased ahead as Raïkkönen pitted and was ultimately able to usurp the BMW-Sauber of Polish rookie Robert Kubica, who had swept ahead before making his own stop.

While Raïkkönen gave spirited chase to finish second, Schumacher’s position was never seriously in jeopardy and he cruised to his 90th career victory in front of a hugely emotional partisan crowd. Following Alonso’s sudden departure, Kubica claimed the final podium in just his third-ever grand prix. Giancarlo Fisichella, on a one-stop strategy, drove an unobtrusive race to finish fourth.

The Hondas of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello both scored points, finishing fifth and sixth respectively, but lacked the outright pace to match the frontrunners. Jarno Trulli took seventh while a fast-starting Nick Heidfeld faded to eighth, partially hindered by a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitlane.

Ferrari’s joy was dampened slightly by Felipe Massa’s failure to finish in the points. The Brazilian was destined for a top-eight finish until he was forced to brake heavily into the first chicane, locked a wheel and punctured a right-front tyre. He dropped to ninth.

News/photos from the Renault F1 site used with permission. Button photo used with permission from Honda Racing

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