The August Bank Holiday in the UK means the Monday Debrief is arriving on Tuesday -- but there's still plenty to say! Fernando-Michael, Part 4 Sunday afternoon's mano a mano duel between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher was Chapter Four...
The August Bank Holiday in the UK means the Monday Debrief is arriving on Tuesday -- but there's still plenty to say!
Fernando-Michael, Part 4
Sunday afternoon's mano a mano duel between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher was Chapter Four in a story that is being writ large across the 2006 season. Ever since 2003, when Fernando put two wheels on the grass on the 300 kph run to Silverstone's Stowe Corner to try and pass Michael, the two men have raced with great respect -- and iron determination. Imola 2005 was the first time they truly battled on track, and this season we have been treated to three fantastic demonstrations of intense, error-free motor racing.
Up until Turkey, the score was one-one: Fernando had prevailed in Bahrain going wheel to wheel into turn 1, whereas Michael had bluffed his way to victory in Imola. As the number 5 Ferrari emerged from the Istanbul pit-lane for the final time, and the blue and yellow Renault swept past, everybody was primed for something special. Fernando's race engineer Rod Nelson takes up the story...
"Fernando knew that the only passing opportunities were on the back of the circuit after turn 8, and he was saving his high revs for the two straights between turns 8 and 12 -- literally turning the engine up and back down around the lap. His engine engineer (Remi Taffin) and I were discussing what revs he had available to use, when we saw he was managing the situation already. It was typical Fernando -- always thinking ahead, working his way around problems and delivering the goods. He was calm in the car -- but I was pretty stressed on the pit-wall!"
For his part, Remi simply gave his usual, calm smile. "What can you say? It was an 'Alonsoesque' performance..."
So what was the championship analysis of the men closest to the defending champion? Rod again: "Well, when we arrived in Turkey, Michael needed to get two points more than us at each race to win. Now he needs three points a race. So we're 50% better off!" One got the impression, leaving Istanbul, that we might have seen a decisive moment in this world championship battle.
So it's back to testing this week for all the teams in Formula 1 -- and nowhere will it be more welcome than at Renault. The three races since the testing ban came into force have seen the engineers coming to terms with running the car without the mass damper system, but Monza will mark the first chance to full re-optimise the R26 away from the race track.
Not only that, but this is starting to look like one of the key test sessions of 2006. The Renault drivers will be evaluating the D spec engine developments that are scheduled to make their debut with Fernando in the Monza race, while also getting to grips with the low downforce Monza aero package.
And of course, Michelin are continuing to push 100% in their bid to take a second consecutive world championship with their partners at Renault. "We have got a very intensive week of testing coming up with our partner teams," explained Michelin's F1 Director Nick Shorrock.
"We have been working flat out since the start of the year, but over the last races we have looked at the whole picture again -- and come up with plenty of new answers. We are testing compounds, lots of constructions and looking at how our partner teams exploit the tyres. Along with Renault, we have done our maximum with Renault so far this year -- and now we need to get to the finish line in first position."