Istanbul, Turkey, Sunday, 27th August 2006 when and where, anyone who has forgotten the power of “Destiny” was reminded of it. The plot was laid out on the previous day during the qualifying session of the race. Looking at the pace of Michael Schumacher in the second session of qualifying (1m 25.850s lap), not many people would have bet against him taking the pole position in the third and final session. But since destiny had something else in mind, Schumacher made mistake in Turn 1 during his first of two runs for setting the time, after he has completed his quota of laps to burn fuel. Failing to set a time and with only one chance left to set a qualifying time, Schumacher possibly took it a bit easy and instead of going all the way over the limit he decided to put in a lap time (1m 27.284s) which just failed short of the one set by his teammate Felipe Massa (1m 26.907s). Right behind them were Renault team mates, with Alonso (1m 27.321s) outpacing Fisichella (1m 27.564s) to take third place.
So the stage was set for Massa to start from the pole for the first time in his F1 racing career. The race start was expected, with neither Massa nor Michael allowing Alonso to pass them in the first corner, Alonso’s teammate Fisichella trying to pass Michael from outside failed to do so and landed up locking up his front brakes and got part of, one of the many accidents which happened in the first corner, in which the biggest looser was Kimi Raikkonen in his Mclaren (having to crash out after getting his blown left rear tyre fixed).
With no Safety car coming out after the first corner accidents, Alonso tried to keep pace with the leading Ferrari’s, in which he failed. Things were looking good for Ferrari, Massa and Michael as Massa was leading Schumacher by just over 2sec with Alonso further some 9sec behind. It was looking all set for Michael to win as Massa would surely move over when the time comes to do so. But that is not what Destiny has already written in the script of the race. On lap 13, Vitantonio Liuzzi spun his Toro Rosso at Turn 1 and halted the car right on the racing line. Yellow flags were out but with no visibility of the car for drivers coming into the turn, it was deemed to dangerous for drivers and track marshals, who were trying to move the car off the track. Hence the Safety car was out. Ferrari now took a gamble by bringing both their cars into pits (no point in having one of their cars lapping slowely behind safety car and loose a few on track position), since Massa was leading, he got chance to be serviced first with Michael waiting for his chance. Renault also rightly got Alonso in the pits. As Alonso was stopping for this pit stop, Massa went out and Michael moved in. It was going to be very close between who comes out first and it was Alonso who edges out Michael to take the second position. As later it was told by Alonso he filled in less fuel in the pit stop.
Safety car was still out on track, with Massa right behind it. Alonso was in second position chased by Michael but there was Nick Heidfeld, a lap down, between Massa and Alonso. As the safety car went in, Alonso immediately passed Heidfeld and tried to keep up with Massa but the pace of Massa was too hot for Alonso to pass him or even keep up. Michael took a few corners before passing Heidfeld which was enough for Alonso to build a 3 odd seconds gap. It seemed that Michael was pacing himself for a charge when the fuel load will go down, on lap 28 Michael went wide on Turn 8 and lost over 4 seconds in the process, this mistake from Michael grew the gap to over 8 seconds. Later it was revealed by Michael that his second set of tyres was having graining problems.
On lap 39th Alonso and Massa came in for their second pit stops and Michael now has started to put in fastest laps of the race, one after another. As Alonso and Massa came out of pit lane, Massa confirmed his pace by being able to stay well clear of Alonso. By now it was sure that Alonso will not be able to pass Massa and now it was left to see what Michael can do who was still putting in very fast laps. On lap 43, Michael came in for his final pit stop. As he was coming out, Alonso just went by. There are some 15 laps left and with Alonso right in front of Michael, Michael is not going to cruise to 3rd place. So he started to put pressure on Alonso, who in turn soaked all of it nicely. On lap 50 Michael almost pulled an overtaking maneuver but Alonso was not going to let it happen. In the end it was just a half car length by which Alonso managed to stay ahead of Michael as both of them crosses the finish line about 5.5seconds behind Massa.
The race surely proved that it was the Destiny of Massa to win this race. Ofcourse just Destiny can not do anything and to execute the script written by Destiny, Massa drove a brilliant race. A well deserving winner, it would have been sad (for once) if Michael would have been second for Massa to let him win the race. The emotions on podium reminded of the first race win by another Brazilian, Rubens Barrichello when he won his first race (in his 128th appearance) driving a Ferrari in an amazingly fought European GP in 2002 at Hockenheim.
The fastest lap of the race, no doubt was set by Michael (1m 28.005s) with Massa right behind him with a lap of 1m 28.123s. Alonso was around 0.2sec slower than Michael, setting his fastest lap of 1m 28.245s. More info at Formula1.com
With just 4 races left now and Michael 12 points behind Alonso, the driver’s championship is surely hot, with neither Alonso nor Michael having any plans of relaxing, the last four races can surely be heart stopping ones and the championship was never so closely fought for Michael in past so many years. Just 2 points now separate Renault and Ferrari in the constructor’s championship and the form of Massa and pace of Ferrari will be the deciding factor in the final outcome of the constructor’s championship.