Michael entered the penultimate race of the 2006 season from Japan – level on points with Fernando Alonso – in the title race. The race was a disaster for Michael, as he suffered his first engine failure since 2000 while in the lead, and Alonso went on to win the race. He entered the final race of the season from Brazil knowing that he had to win the race and hope that Alonso finished outside the points.
Schumi’s bad luck continued on Saturday as another mechanical failure meant that he started 10th on the grid, Alonso started from 4th. Filipe Massa in the second Ferrari started from pole in his home Grand Prix.
Raceday dawned and Schumi overtook the two Williams driver up front on turn four of the first lap while they were busy fighting amongst themselves. By the second lap, he had overtaken two more cars and was up in 6th. A safety car period followed soon and when the race resumed on lap 6 Michael had all his attention on Fisichella. Disaster struck on lap 9 immediately after Schumi had overtaken Fisichella, as the Italian tried to fight back to recover the lost position but his front wing clipped one of Michael’s race tires and the German was left with a puncture. He nursed the car back into the pits and by the time he came out on track, he was almost a lap behind the race leader Massa.
What followed was a phenomenal drive from Michael, the never say die spirit kicked in. Ferrari had taken advantage of the pit stop changing all four tires and putting enough fuel to ensure that Michael required only one more stop. By the time the other drivers around him pitted he was up into 13th place. Schumi again pitted for his final stop on lap 47 having driven 36 laps on the same tires at an extremely quick pace. He resumed in 8th place. He soon went past Kubica and started gaining on Barrichello in 6th almost at 1.5 seconds a lap. He went past the Brazilian on lap 51 and then past Fisichella on lap 62, having being delayed by running wide a few laps before.
He started chasing Kimi Raikkonen and a series of incredible laps followed with Michael trying to attack and Kimi defending. On lap 69, Michael made his move and completed a move which is regarded as one of the greatest overtaking moves till date. He inserted his Ferrari in a seemingly impossible gap to find an opening between Kimi’s car and the pit lane and went neck and neck on the first turn. Kimi had to give way into the 2nd turn and 4th place was Michael’s.
The move typified everything that Michael as a racer stood for. Daring, bravery and unbelievable skill and finesse. It was little too late but as Alonso finished the race in 2nd grabbing the crown. It had been a race which had reflected Michael’s never say die attitude, and he had conceded that the title was Alonso’s after Japan only. But even when the chips were against him and luck had completely deserted him, he gave it all.
The race was scheduled to be Michael’s final as he had signalled his decision to retire few races earlier at the Italian Grand Prix. An 8th title didn’t follow but Michael had ended his F1 journey with practically all the major F1 driver records to his name. He topped the charts in all of the following: Championships, Career Points, Race Wins and Pole Positions.
The career of the greatest racer had seemingly ended, at least for now.