• 2006

Alonso again . . . just

ESPNF1 Staff
January 1, 2006
Fernando Alonso celebrates back-to-back titles as Felipe Massa wins his home race in Brazil © Sutton Images

Season's results | Drivers' Championship | Constructors' Championship

Changes for the 2007 season meant that it would be the last time in the foreseeable future with two tyre manufacturers going head-to-head, as Michelin announced it would withdraw from the sport at the end of the season. Sadly for most Formula One enthusiasts, the great Spa Francorchamps circuit was omitted from the 2006 calendar due to a lack of time to complete improvements on the track.

When the racing started in earnest, Renault and Fernando Alonso continued where they left off in 2005. The new champion won in Bahrain and Australia before reeling off consecutive victories in Spain, Monaco, Great Britain and Canada.

After two disastrous seasons by his own high standards, Michael Schumacher won consecutive races at Imola and the Nurburgring but was once again the centre of a cheating controversy at Monaco.

During the final lap of his qualifying session, Schumacher came to a stop at the La Rascasse hairpin, resulting in yellow flags, meaning that other drivers could not go at maximum speed. After the session there were immediate complaints from the other teams claiming that this was a deliberate move by Schumacher to ensure he started in pole position as Alonso's flying lap had been likely to beat his fastest time as the Spaniard's final time was just 0.064 seconds slower than Schumacher. Although Schumacher insisted that he had simply locked up his brakes at the corner, camera replays proved otherwise and after a stewards inquiry, Schumacher's qualifying times were deleted, demoting him to 22nd position on the grid.

After his Canadian Grand Prix victory, Alonso held a significant advantage at the season's halfway point but things were about to change as Schumacher came into his own. The Ferrari driver completed his customary win at Indianapolis, his fourth in succession, and followed it up with victory in France. Buoyed by a partisan home crowd, Schumacher completed a hat-trick of victories at Hockenheim as Alonso trailed home in fifth.

The next round in Hungary provided a long overdue breakthrough victory for Jenson Button, who benefitted from a late mechanical problem that sidelined race leader Alonso. Crucially for the Spaniard, Schumacher was unable to make significant inroads into the points deficit as he managed just eighth.

A maiden victory for Felipe Massa in Turkey followed and Alonso extended his lead by twelve points from Schumacher in the same race by finishing second ahead of his title rival. Controversy once again hit the season in Italy when Alonso was given a stewards penalty for 'holding up' Massa during the final qualification session, much to the disagreement of many in the paddock including Max Mosley. Regardless, an engine failure in the race for Alonso meant Schumacher reduced the deficit to only two points with a victory that also saw Ferrari overtake Renault in the constructors' standings.After winning the seven-time champion announced his decision to retire in an emotinal press conference at his beloved Ferrari's home track.

A further victory ahead of Alonso at Shanghai drew Schumacher level on points with two races remaining, meaning that the championship was almost certain to be decided in the season finale in Brazil.

The following week, Alonso took pole from Schumacher in Japan but the German quickly established a healthy lead and looked certain of victory until an engine failure forced his retirement with 17 laps to go. Alonso now held a ten point advantage with just one round remaining. Both drivers had seven race wins to their credit, meaning Schumacher had to win in Brazil and hope Alonso failed to finish in the points. A tall order indeed.

But luck deserted Schumacher yet again in the final race. A mystery technical problem scuppered his qualifying session, leaving him tenth on the grid. And in the race, an early puncture ended his chances of victory and he eventually finished fourth.

Alonso finished second to cement his second successive championship and Massa's race victory meant he became the first Brazilian to win his home grand prix since Ayrton Senna in 1993.

Fisichella finished 6th for Renault, meaning the French outfit secured their second successive constructor's title. McLaren failed to secure a single win in the season for the first time since 1996 and it was the first season since 1956 that a British constructor failed to win a race.

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