Thursday, 29 July 2010

Race Rewind: Budapest 2006

It was a drama filled weekend in Budapest in 2006 with penalties, rain and a new winner in the sport...

The 2006 season had become a battle between two teams, Renault and Ferrari, and more potently a battle between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher. The Spaniard had started the season the way he finished 2005 with early season wins and podiums to build a big championship lead but Schumacher had started to lead a Ferrari revival and he arrived at Hungary 11 points behind the reigning world champion.

The title battle would already begin to develop during Friday practice. Alonso was held up coming out of the final corner by Robert Doornbos, who was getting a run out in the Red Bull. He overtook down the straight and approaching turn 1 brake tested the Dutch driver, who only just avoided a collison. Alonso was called in to the stewards office and penalised him for this and for another incident where he overtook another car through a yellow flag zone. The stewards awarded an unusual penalty, a two second penalty which would be added to each time that the Spaniard set during qualifying.

On a track like the Hungaroring this was a massive blow to Alonso's chances of a big points haul. More pre-qualifying drama was to follow. A red flag on Saturday morning after an engine failure for Jenson Button, which would mean a ten place grid penalty, meant all the cars returned to the pits. Alonso was returning pretty slowly and had debutant Robert Kubica right behind him. Coming into the penultimate corner, Schumacher passed both. Alonso was straight on the radio, relaying what had happened and making a case for a penalty. The stewards agreed and Schumacher was also given a two second penalty for qualifying.

Kimi Raikkonen took pole position for McLaren and was joined on the front row by Felipe Massa. Schumacher and Alonso took 12th and 15th respectively

The Grid

1. Raikkonen
2. Massa
3. Barrichello
4. de la Rosa
5. Webber
6. R Schumacher
7. Fisichella
8. Trulli
9. Kubica
10. Heidfeld
11. M Schumacher
12. Coulthard
13. Klien*
14. Button
15. Alonso
16. Monteiro
17. Liuzzi
18. Rosberg
19. Speed
20. Sato
21. Yamamoto
22. Albers

*Klien started from the pitlane

Raceday dawned wet and murky. Conditions were tricky and Pedro de la Rosa showed that by spinning on the parade lap. He did recover though. At the start Raikkonen held the lead while Barrichello took second, using a wide line through turn 1 which yielded more grip. Schumacher had an incredible start, exiting turn 1 in 6th but Alonso was also battling hard. Several moves on the opening laps took him to 6th and he then passed Schumacher around the outside of turn 5. The Renault was on Michelin tyres and they were working better in the conditions than the Bridgestone tyres which were on the Ferrari. Jenson Button was also making his way through the field and soon passed the struggling German. Meanwhile de la Rosa passed Barrichello to make it a McLaren 1-2

Things got worse for Schumacher when he slide into the rear of Giancarlo Fisichella and damaged the front wing. The Italian crashed out of the race soon after, along with Christian Klien and Robert Kubica, though the Polish driver recovered to the pits and changed the front nose of the car. A bigger crash would follow on lap 26 when Raikkonen ran into the back of Vitantonio Liuzzi whilst trying to lap the Toro Rosso. It was a big impact and put both men out. The safety car was also deployed. In the restart, Schumacher had a spin while Alonso pulled out a big lead. Button started to pull back towards Alonso as the track started to dry. Button decided to short fuel at his stop and keep his tyres on. This was a good decision as it was too soon for dry tyres whilst dark clouds were still looming.

Alonso was now in for his final stop and put the dry tyres on. As he emerged back on track he struggled to slow down for the first corner. It seem he was just getting the tyres up to temperature but into the next corner a wheel nut bounced off the car and a driveshaft failure pitched him into the barriers. Button now had a commanding lead and Schumacher was now second as he had stayed out on his intermediate tyres whilst de la Rosa and Heidfeld were on dry tyres. The McLaren was all over Schumacher and after several attempts he finally squeezed through. Heidfeld was next and there was slight contact. Schumacher had damage to his right front suspension ansd with only three laps to go was out. It was a major missed opprtunity. Ross Brawn would admit after the season that in hindsight he should have advised the German to bag some points and take less risks.

It was a brilliant race for the top three. Button took his first victory for himself and Honda whilst de la Rosa took his best ever result. Heidfeld came 3rd and gave BMW-Sauber their first ever podium finish. Robert Kubica came 7th on his debut but was later disqualified as his car was two kilograms underweight, believed to be because he finished on extremely worn tyres. This promoted Schumacher to 8th as he was classified 9th after his late retirement and meant he gained one point on Alonso in the championship battle.

The two men would continue to battle hard in a championship that had many twists. Schumacher announced in Monza that he would be retiring and took the championship lead in China. However, engine failure in Japan meant Alonso only needed a point in Brazil and he took second position to take a second consecutive world championship

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