Sunday, April 23, 2006

Grand Premio San Marino – Ferrari Dominates

In the words of the commentators, “Ferrari is the most advanced racing machine in the Universe!” Michael Schumacher took the checkered flag in Imola after a stunning move with only 32 laps remaining while Felipe Massa finished fourth with the second Cavallino Modenese.

Ferdinando Alonso of Renault had the first three Grand Premi this year already under his belt but in a recent interview Schumi had stated that the season begins when the tour comes to Europe.

With continuing speculation concerning his retirement, Schumacher, the highest paid athlete in the world with over one billion euro in compensation over his career, showed he was not ready to sit in the boxes. With Alonso’s Renault driving a very defensive line holding Schumacher in the rear mirror Team Ferrari decided to pit and took on a new set of tires and enough fuel for 19.2 laps. The stop was executed to perfection as Alonso continued running. His lighter car, with less fuel and warm tires, turned in personal best laps of 1 minute and 25 seconds.

Schumacher returned to the course with a vengeance, pushing the now fuel heavy Ferrari with cold wheels to the limit. Several times in the following three laps the Rosso under-steered popping the wheels over the cords in the turns but Schumacher kept pushing. By the time Alonso pitted the Ferrari’s tires were hot and Schumacher pushed the Ferrari for all she was worth. Team partner Shell had just introduced a new fuel mix and the Ferrari technical team had reworked the piston rods to allow this racehorse to access another 600 Rpm cutting 0.5 seconds off the lap times.

Renault returned to the race several seconds behind Ferrari but quickly made up the time as Schumacher drove defensively. Imola is an unforgiving track. Errors not only make you lose time but also but tremendous strain on the mechanical portions of the vehicle. Alonso was convinced that Schumacher was holding him back as he aggressively attempted several passes only to be closed down by Schumacher. The frustration of the Renault team was evident as the pilot screamed back and forth with the team director.

In a surprise move the Renault team pitted again after only a few laps with the intention of repaying the favor executed earlier by team Ferrari. Schumacher pushed the Ferrari, bringing the lap times down and as Alonso exited pit row he was amazed to see the back of Schumacher’s Ferrari. Desperation set in for Alonso as Schumacher continued a defensive path, thwarting Renault’s attempts to slide by. The aggressive driving began to take its toll on the Renault and after 3 consecutive near fatal errors Alonso conceded defeat with seven laps remaining and neatly slid in behind Schumacher.

What a race! What a car! Obviously, what a great pilot! Viva Ferrari!


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