Schumi wins San Marino Grand Prix
Schumacher showed Ferrari's rivals that Italian team was back on the pace.Updated: Apr 23, 2006 19:48 IST
Michael Schumacher showed Ferrari's rivals that the Italian team are back on the pace on Sunday by winning a thrilling San Marino Grand Prix.
German Schumacher, 37, resisted intense pressure from drivers' world champion Fernando Alonso to take his seventh win at the Imola circuit and 85th career victory with a two second advantage.
Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, 30, completed the podium after clever pit-strategy from his McLaren crew allowed him to pass Schumacher's Brazilian team-mate Felipe Massa, 24, at the final round of pit-stops.
Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, led from the start from front-row qualifier Jenson Button, Massa and Renault driver Alonso as Brazilian Rubens Barrichello dropped two places to fifth in his Honda.
But the safety car was deployed at the end of lap one after Midland's Christijan Albers destroyed his car in a huge accident.
Dutchman Albers rolled his car five times through the gravel after Japan's Yuji Ide tried an optimistic move in the second part of the corner. Albers walked away unscathed, and Ide was able to continue after pitting for repairs.
Schumacher built up a 13-second lead before the first round of pit-stops. Button made the first move on lap 15, pitting for the first of three planned stops in 9.4 seconds.
Massa and Schumacher both stopped soon after, but Spaniard Alonso, who was carrying more fuel, continued until lap 25 and lapped over half a second faster than his rivals before pitting.
Alonso's blistering pace in the five laps before the pit-stop saw him emerge in second place — ahead of Button and Massa, and with an 11.2 second deficit to Schumacher.
But the German was suffering from a lack of grip as Ferrari had put a set of used Bridgestone tyres on his car for the middle stint of the race.
That allowed Alonso to cut the gap to the leader down to 0.4 seconds within 10 laps as his Michelin rubber provided no such problem.
Alonso pitted for the final time on lap 41, but Schumacher's in-lap was so fast that he emerged ahead of last year's race winner when he emerged from the pit lane one lap later.
Alonso continued to pressure the leader, but it was he who made a crucial error with three laps to go when he ran wide onto the kerbs exiting the Villeneuve chicane.
That gave Schumacher a 2.2 second lead, which he held onto to take his 85 Grand Prix win, and his first in 13 races.
Behind Montoya and Massa, McLaren's Finn Kimi Raikkonen, ended a quiet race in fifth ahead of Williams' Mark Webber from Australia and Button.
Button could have finished higher but for a problem at his second pit-stop.
His lollipop man gave him the order to go before the fuel rig had been detached and the Briton knocked over his team's entire rig.
After stopping in the pit lane, the team removed the part and he was able to continue. Alonso's Italian team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella completed the points-scoring positions in eighth.
Schumacher's win puts him second in this year's drivers' world championship standings, 15 points behind Alonso.
First Published: Apr 23, 2006 19:32 IST