Michael’s Magic at Monza

September 11, 2006

by Amit Goyal

The F1 race at Monza today was of special interest today for more reasons that one. It is Ferrari’s home turf. Amid speculations that Schumacher would announce his retirement here, it was also of further interest because Schumacher had qualified much ahead of Alonso, with Massa in between the both, and Raikkonen at the pole it would be interesting to see how much of the 12 point lead would Schumacher be able to slice off. The stands were filled with the tifosi and you could sense that they were anticipating a fairy tale run for Ferrari here. Guess what? Today was their lucky day.

The race started with a surprise that Alonso would be staring from the 10th position on the grid instead of 5th, a penalty of 5 positions for obstructing Massa’s qualifying session. Naturally, Renault team boss Flavio Briatore was very pretty pissed at this and felt that the race had been fixed and that the FIA wants Michael to win. Now, while I agree that F1 Marshall’s may not be very fair, I don’t remember Mr. Briatore making any such statement when Michael was penalised for a similar offense at Monte Carlo. That proves just one thing to me, that the Renault team is a bunch of sore losers. Alonso has received a lot of flak for not being sporting enough. I hope that he can improve his performance on this front, for humility is the hallmark of a true champion.

Anyways, the race began with Raikkonen (possibly the next Ferrari driver) holding off Schumacher till the first round of pit stops, after which Schumacher returned to head the pack. Everything was smooth after this except a minor blip during the 33rd lap in which Michael made an unusual error, braking too late at the first turn, and almost banged into Scott Speed. After that Schumacher shifted into the glide mode in which he just paces himself to the chequered flag without pushing the car too much. I have always believed tha the greatest strengths of Schumacher are not brilliant overtaking maneuvers but driving a very precisely planned race, those drives in and out of the pits, and those fast laps when needed.

The real twist in the entire story came in the 43rd lap when Alonso (now up to 3rd position) retired from the race with a blown engine. This was probably a mixed event for Ferrari as this would mean no points for Alonso and with Schumacher now heading towards a clear and comfortable victory it meant that the championship was wide open. However, Massa, blinded from the smoke emanating from Alonso’s Renault drove on to the dirt and damaged his right front tyre and had to stop to get it changed and joined the race in 9th position out of points.

In the end Schumacher won quite comfortably followed by Raikkonen and Robert Kubica (it was only his third race). The face of Jean Todt when Schumacher crossed the chequered flag (the 90th of his illustrious career) confirmed the fact that Schumacher would indeed announce his retirement. It was time for official announcement of the news that had been anticipated through out the week now. During the post race conference a visibly emotional Schumacher announced that the next three races would be the last of his career and thanked his family, his team and his fans for their support.

While Schumacher may not get the title of the greatest ever (that being reserved for the late Senna) he surely has been the most prolific. He probably has every possible F1 record to his name. From the most podiums to the most poles. From the most titles to the most victories at a single venue. He has been there and done that. The sport will be that much less exciting without him. But these words can, for the moment, be saved for 3 more races.

The F1 championship is now poised for a lip smacking last three races as Ferrari leads the constructors championship by 2 points and Schumacher trails the title also by 2. Will Schumacher be able to mark the end of his career with another title? Will Ferrai win the constructors title? Well, I do not want to hazard a guess. So fasten your seat belts and gear up for some action.

PS: Did you know that the Lancias, Ferraris and Maseratis of the 1950s also sported a V8 engine?

PS: Amit is now the part of Desicritics.org and the post is also posted here.

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