Bahraini GP - Second place for Michael Schumacher Manama, 12 March 2006 - Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso led home Ferrari's Michael Schumaacher by a tiny 1.246s at the end of the exciting 57 lap series-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at...
Bahraini GP - Second place for Michael Schumacher
Manama, 12 March 2006 - Reigning World Champion Fernando Alonso led home Ferrari's Michael Schumaacher by a tiny 1.246s at the end of the exciting 57 lap series-opening Bahrain Grand Prix at Sakhir on Sunday. The Ferrari driver had led for most of the first 36 laps, but when Alonso emerged from the pits on lap 40, he just got out in the lead, and was able to hold on to the chequered flag. The pair were 18 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Kimi Raikkonen, who had started at the back of the grid.
At the start, it was Michael Schumacher who jumped straight into the lead from teammate Felipe Massa, but Alonso got past the second Ferrari when the Brazilian went wide at turn four. Michael led lap one from Alonso, Massa, followed by Juan Pablo Montoya, then Rubens Barrichello (Honda) ahead of delayed teammate Jenson Button, Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella and Williams's Mark Webber. His teammate, Nico Rosberg, had to make a pit stop after clashing with Nick Heidfeld.
Michael gradually eased away during the opening stages so that he had a 3.4s lead over Alonso on lap seven, the Renault driver hounded all the way by Massa, but under braking for the first corner, Massa spun and his gyrating car only just missed the Renault. Massa came in for a pit stop, but problems with airguns cost him some 40 seconds, which relegated him to 21st place.
Michael extended his lead to 6.2s by lap 14 from Alonso, when the Ferrari made its first pit stop. That allowed Alonso into the lead, now around eight seconds ahead of Button, who had fought back to overtake Montoya on lap 11. Teammate Barrichello, however, would drop back with gearbox trouble, eventually losing third gear, but for the moment, he was holding fourth place until he pitted on lap 16.
That put Schumacher into fourth place, ahead of Christian Klien, Webber and Raikkonen. Fisichella retired on lap 16 after initially suffering a loss of power and then a hydraulic failure.
Button pitted on lap 18 and Alonso on lap 19, which left Montoya in the lead, but he came in on lap 23. Michael now led again but only by 1.1s from Alonso in second place. Then came a six second gap to Raikonnen who had yet to make his single stop. Thirteen seconds further back was Montoya being pushed by Button, until the Honda driver overtook on lap 29, just after half distance. David Coulthard was next from Webber and then Klien.
On lap 30, Raikkonen and Coulthard made their single stops, so that Michael still led but still pushed by Alonso. Button was 21s behind in third place, then Montoya another three seconds down, followed by Webber and Raikkonen.
Michael made his second stop on lap 36, partially due to have lost a lap's fuel allowance during qualifying when one lap was under the 110 percent limit. It could have been crucial. When Alonso stopped three laps later, he just emerged from the pits in the lead, with Michael fighting to overtake him, but just failing to do so.
For the next 18 laps, Michael harried the reigning World Champion but just couldn't find a way past. On lap 52, Michael tried down the inside into the first corner but just couldn't quite make it and had to hold station to the chequered flag.
Button made his final stop on lap 40 and emerged just behind Raikkonen and would push him all the way to the chequered flag but would just fail to pass. The pair slipped ahead of Montoya when the Colombian made his final stop on lap 44. He finished fifth, The steady Webber finished sixth ahead of teammate Rosberg who came through magnificently not only to set fastest lap - twice - but to overtake several other cars, including both Red Bull Racing-Ferraris in the final stint. Klien salvaged eighth, just ahead of the recovered Massa.
"Today we had everything we needed to win, perhaps we needed just that extra little bit of luck ! nevertheless we saw that this weekend our car-engine-Bridgestone tyre package was competitive from the first to the last lap. This is of fundamental importance for team morale and to show that we and our technical partners have worked in the right direction over the winter. This race confirms that there are four teams capable of winning and Ferrari is one of them. Michael made it to the second step of the podium. It's a pity about that qualifying lap that wasn't acknowledged this morning because of the 110% rule, because maybe that bit of extra fuel would have been enough to stay ahead. However we say this with hindsight and it's the sort of thing that is a typical part of racing and we have to accept it. Felipe drove a great race: his spin and the subsequent problem with the tyre change stopped him from doing as well as he could have done. His performance today is still a good sign for the rest of the season. We have a lot of work to do but we'll do our utmost to fight for the championships. Today's result gives an extra boost to the team, the drivers and Bridgestone."
"All in all this is an excellent result and I'm certainly not complaining about finishing second. If someone would have told us during the winter months that this is the way we would have finished the first race of the season, I wouldn't have believed them. Today we must be really pleased with the result. On the other hand, I still have some mixed feelings because it's seems that we could have been ahead and could have won the race. Considering how it ended up, it's now clear that the qualifying lap that wasn't acknowledged in as far as refuelling this morning was concerned, was the decisive factor that played against us. It's a pity, because yesterday I had to back off because of the traffic. In any case it's a great day for us because we know that we have an good car and we have an excellent potential to develop during the course of the season and this is very important. This year the fight for the championship will be very close: there are several good teams, all of which are capable of battling for the title and it's great to be one of them."
"I must say that it really was a pity. Right from the start of the weekend I had a very competitive car and it's a shame that I wasn't able to pick up some points. When I spun I was very close to Alonso and I just touched the brakes but then I lost the rear end and spun off. During the pit stop I lost a lot of time to change the right rear tyre and that's when I lost any chance of finishing in the points. For the rest of the race I was flat out all the time and I managed to climb back up to 9th. It's a pity that I've come away from this race with no points, but I'm looking forward to get my own back because I know that we have everything it takes to perform well."
"Obviously very frustrating to have come so close to winning a race but after the season we had last year we can take a great deal of encouragement from today's performance. Now we have to work on all those bits and pieces to find that little bit extra to win the next race and the one after that. We are in a close fight at the front and it's down to us now to get everything else right and try and win this championship. Felipe was going very well until he spun and we need to find out what caused it. He had a very good race after that. When he came in for the pit stop we had a problem with the right rear gun. The back-up system didn't work either. We're going to have a careful look and see what caused this error."
Michael Schumacher: 2nd
57 laps +1.246
Felipe Massa: 9th
57 laps +1.09.907
air 22/20 C
track 34/30 C