Schumacher's legacy leaves F1 awestruck

The 2006 Formula One season will be remembered for the gripping battle between the old Old Guard and the new, Michael Schumacher versus Fernando Alonso. Ferrari versus Renault. Their on-track confrontations, together with off-track chicanery and controversy, made it a memorable year rendered all the more significant when Schumacher finally revealed after victory at Monza in September that he would be retiring.

Such was the quality of the racing that nobody really cared that 2.4 litre V8s had replaced the old 3 litre V10s, or that tyre stops were once again a feature (in a direct sop, cynics said, to Ferrari). But spectators liked the new knock-out qualifying system.

Renault were stronger to begin with, Alonso winning in the opening race in Bahrain, finishing second to team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella in Malaysia, then winning again in Australia. But then Schumacher asserted Ferrari's authority in Imola and Nurburgring, forcing Alonso to settle for second on each occasion.

Alonso and Renault hit another purple patch with four consecutive victories that stunned Ferrari, Alonso winning at home in Spain, in Monaco, Silverstone and Montreal. Schumacher, however, took second place in three of those four. His controversial behaviour in qualifying at Monaco, and subsequent banishment to the back of the grid, restricted him to fifth place.

Alonso and Renault won again in Canada, but in Indianapolis the tide began to turn. Schumacher won from team-mate Felipe Massa, with Alonso struggling home fifth.

Schumacher and Ferrari won again at Magny-Cours, where Renault had expected to get back into the groove, and only cunning pitwork earned Alonso second place ahead of Massa.

Hockenheim marked another appalling weekend for Renault, compounded by the FIA's sudden decision to "reinterpret" its own ruling concerning mass dampers, which only Renault had. Some openly accused the governing body of favouring Schumacher and Ferrari, especially after the German won again. What made people suspicious was that the ban coincided with the summer break, when testing was not allowed, hampering Renault even more.

The Anglo-French team forgot about the dampers for Hungary, but just as Alonso had that tricky damp race in the bag a broken rear-wheel retaining clip pitched him off the road. Jenson Button finally took his Honda to victory, after 114 attempts, and Alonso could count himself lucky that Schumacher, after a couple of clashes with Nick Heidfeld and Pedro de la Rosa, managed only a point for eighth place.

Straight after Button's win came Massa's first, when a safety car incident in Turkey stymied plans to have the Brazilian "surrender" the lead to his team leader during the first pit stops. Schumacher fell behind Alonso as he queued behind Massa.

At Monza the tension was heightened by the expected announcement that Schumacher would be retiring at the end of the year. But before that, further controversy erupted when Alonso was moved back from fifth on the grid to 10th after allegedly impeding Massain qualifying.

An angry Alonso openly spoke of F1 no longer being a sport. The following day Schumacher won, and duly announced his imminent departure; Alonso retired with a broken engine. His once majestic advantage was now down to only two points with three races left.

In China, Schumacher benefited when Alonso struggled with new front tyres after his first pit stop. Now, incredibly, Schumacher and Alonso headed for Japan neck and neck, each with 116 points. But because Schumacher had seven wins to six, he held the lead for the first time in the season. In qualifying the Schumacher/Ferrari/Bridgestone package stunned their rivals, but Alonso, Renault and Michelin hit back in the race as the two rivals proved evenly matched. They were running first and second, battling it out, when Schumacher's normally super-reliable Ferrari suffered an engine failure. Alonso romped home to open up a 10 point advantage.

Now all Alonso needed was a single point here to frustrate Schumacher's aspiration to retire with an eighth title. As it transpired, he finished second to Massa and Schumacher had to fight back to fourth after a puncture. Alonso thus secured his back-to-back title.

Inevitably the Alonso/ Schumacher battle overshadowed all else, but the successes of Button and Massa were also highlights in a wonderful season, at the end of which Schumacher's departure brought down the curtain on a dramatic era.

2006 A year of drama

* BEST MOMENT

The final race of the season. Felipe Massa (below), won at home; Fernando Alonso fended off Jenson Button to finish second and take his second consecutive world championship; a retiring Michael Schumacher driving a blinding race to check out with dignity.

* WORST MOMENT

Schumacher's feeble "parking" effort at the Rascasse corner during qualifying in Monte Carlo, when he attempted to block the track with a perfectly healthy but supposedly stalled Ferrari in an effort to frustrate Alonso.

* BEST RACE

The Hungarian Grand Prix, which featured some superb driving by Button, Alonso and Schumacher on a very slick surface, and finally saw Button score his maiden victory.

* MOST IMPROVED DRIVER

Ferrari's Felipe Massa. He had a reputation for being a trifle headstrong, but drove with growing maturity.

* NEXT YOUNG STARS

BMW have Robert Kubica and Sebastien Vettel; Renault the Finnish newcomer Heikki Kovalainen; McLaren will surely give Lewis Hamilton a race seat; ditto Super Aguri with Anthony Davidson; Williams should run Timo Glock; and, if Gerhard Berger and Red Bull stop messing about, Toro Rosso's Tonio Liuzzi can fulfil his potential.

In the driving seat: Who is going where in Formula One for 2007

* RENAULT Giancarlo Fisichella, Heikki Kovalainen. Test driver: Nelson Piquet Jnr.

* FERRARI Kimi Raikkonen, Felipe Massa. Test driver: Luca Badoer.

* McLAREN-MERCEDES Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton? Test driver: Pedro de la Rosa? Gary Paffett?

* HONDA Jenson Button, Rubens Barrichello. Test driver: Christian Klien?

* BMW SAUBER Nick Heidfeld, Robert Kubica. Test driver: Sebastien Vettel

* TOYOTA Ralf Schumacher, Jarno Trulli. Test driver: Franck Montagny

* RED BULL RACING-RENAULT David Coulthard, Mark Webber.

* WILLIAMS-TOYOTA Alexander Wurz, Nico Rosberg. Test driver: Timo Glock?

* SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO-FERRARI Tonio Liuzzi, Scott Speed? Robert Doornbos?

* SPYKER-FERRARI Christijan Albers, Tiago Monteiro? Christian Klien? Dan Wheldon?

* SUPER AGURI-HONDA Takuma Sato, Anthony Davidson. Test driver: Sakon Yamamoto?

News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
football
News
i100
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall