Mon, Oct 02, 2006 - Page 20 News List

Schumacher wins Chinese Grand Prix

TIRE TUSSLE Seven-time champion Michael Schumacher made the better tire choices in the changeable weather conditions, propelling him to the top of the drivers' standings

DPA , SHANGHAI

Fernando Alonso recovers from an off-track excursion during the Grand Prix of China at the F1 racetrack near Shanghai, China, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Ferrari's Michael Schumacher won his first-ever Chinese Grand Prix yesterday ahead of the two Renaults of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella.

The victory sees the German overtake Alonso -- who was struggling with the right choice of tires during the race -- in the championship standings with two races to go.

Both have 116 points, but Schumacher has one Grand Prix victory more this season and is positioned ahead of Alonso as a result.

Schumacher said he believed the championship would only be decided in the last race in Brazil.

"Not long ago we were so far behind that it is a bit of a miracle that we managed to be in the position that we are in now," he said.

"The race in China was the one I expected the least from and I am very happy that we have now achieved the victory. We now go into the two final races in a good position," Schumacher said.

Jenson Button in a Honda secured fourth place on a dramatic last lap after moving up from sixth, while McLaren-Mercedes' Pedro de la Rosa was fifth. Rubens Barrichello was sixth in the second Honda, followed by Nick Heidfeld in a BMW-Sauber and the Williams of Mark Webber.

Alonso had no problems winning the start from his team-mate Fisichella, while championship challenger Schumacher, who started in sixth, kept his place.

McLaren-Mercedes' Kimi Raikkonen, who was Alonso's main challenger after moving up from fifth on the grid, had to retire with engine problems after 19 laps.

"I don't know what happened. There was a problem with the engine. It was still running but I could not put it into gear," he said.

Alonso then ran into problems, possibly because of only putting on a new set of intermediary tires in the front and lost ground on Fisichella and Schumacher who had fought his way up to third.

The defending champion was overtaken on the 29th lap and shortly afterwards then returned to the pits and changed his tires.

The pit stop however proved to be disastrous as his crew struggled to free the back set of tires and he lost a further ten seconds, coming out in fifth place.

Alonso said in hindsight it would have been better not to change the tires the first time around.

"We decided to change the front tires and this proved not to be a good thing. We were at a disadvantage then," he said.

As weather conditions improved Schumacher first came in to change to dry-weather tires on the 40th lap and a lap later Fisichella followed suit but the Italian obviously had huge problems getting used to the new tires and was overtaken by Schumacher on the first turn.

Schumacher said that he had taken a gamble on the tires.

"We found the right moment to change to dry tires -- it was a gamble to stay on the tires as long as we did," Schumacher said.

"You have to judge what you are going to do -- it was then right to change as the tires were about to lose performance," he said.

On his slick tires Alonso started a furious catch-up phase and soon moved up to Fisichella, whom he managed to overtake on the 49th lap -- with seven to go.

The Renault then pushed forward closing in on Schumacher but with a gap of 10 seconds with five laps to go it proved just a bit too much for Alonso.

"After changing the tires we were looking for a miracle, but it did not happen," Alonso said, adding that he was still hopeful for the championship. "The weekend showed that we were much faster in wet conditions and also faster in dry conditions."

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