October 1, 2006, Shanghai International Circuit.
The 2006 F1 season was proving to be a much more evenly contested season compared to 2005 as tire changes returned marginalising the advantage that the Michelin based teams had over the Bridgestone ones.
Coming into the 16th race of the season from China, the defending champion Fernando Alonso – with 108 points – was 2 points ahead of Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari in the standings. In the Constructors race, Ferrari had a 3 point advantage over Renault. Michael arrived in fine form in the race having won the previous race from Italy.
Saturday proved to be a disaster for Ferrari. A wet track meant that the Michelin’s had a big advantage over the Bridgestone’s. Alonso qualified on pole with teammate Giancarlo Fisichella next to him. Schumi could only muster 6th in the highest qualifying Bridgestone based car.
The race on Sunday started again on a heavily wet track and both the Renault’s made a good start. However, the track soon started drying up and the Bridgestone came back into play. Schumi overtook former teammate Rubens Barrichello in his Honda in lap 8. In lap 14, he went past Button to claim fourth place, and at this stage, Alonso was 25 seconds ahead of him. A few laps down the line he was beginning to catch up to Fisichella who was down in 3rd having being passed by Kimi Raikkonen. Kimi’s luck ran out soon and he retired with a mechanical failure meaning Schumi was up in the podium positions.
Schumi made his first pitstop on lap 21 with Renault’s following suit in the next couple of laps. Alonso was the only one who opted to change his tires (he changed the front pair), the move backfired and his teammate and Michael caught up. He was overtaken by Giancarlo on lap 30 and Michael a lap later.
Following the second round of pitstops, Fisichella ran wide on cold tires and Michael capitalised taking the lead of the race. Alonso who had witnessed a delayed 2nd stop owing to wheel nut problem was reinvigorated in the final stages of the race as he first overtook his team mate and then chased Michael.
It was too late though as Schumi took the chequered flag 3 seconds ahead of the Spaniard. He was now level on points with Alonso going into the final two races of the season.
This turned out to be the last race win of Michael’s career as his season ended in disappointment as Alonso clinched his second consecutive championship.