The Spaniard starts his charge

Race Rewind 2006

A temporary change in the 2006 calendar saw Formula 1® arrive in Melbourne with formlines to follow.

The event was shifted to the third round of the season to avoid a clash with the Commonwealth Games and it was Renault pair Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella who arrived Down Under with the broadest of smiles.

Alonso - the 2005 world champion - took out the season-opener in Bahrain, before Fisichella triumphed in Malaysia, giving Renault all the momentum ahead of a memorable race at the iconic Albert Park Grand Prix Circuit.

Four Safety Cars were called on in the race due to a series of crashes as 10 drivers failed to finish.

Home favourite Mark Webber and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher were among the drivers to retire early, as Alonso battled it out with McLaren’s Kimi Raikkonen for victory.

It was Jenson Button who took pole, though, the Honda man catching the eye with a seriously quick lap in yet another new qualifying format.

Fisichella finished second, with Alonso and Raikkonen third and fourth respectively, leaving Michael Schumacher and new Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa in their wake.

Both Ferraris failed to qualify for the third and final session of qualifying, a disappointment for the many fans of the Maranello-based team in Melbourne.
But would it be a sign of things to come?

Both McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya and Fisichella ran into trouble in the countdown to the main race, with the latter having to start from pit lane after he stalled on the grid, forcing another formation lap.

It left space to attack Button in and Alonso made the most of it, heaping the pressure on the pole sitter immediately, while Massa did not make it past Turn 1 after a collision with new Williams driver Nico Rosberg.

That forced the first appearance of the Safety Car and after Alonso took the lead, it was called on again when Red Bull’s Christian Klien smashed into a wall.

Something was clearly up with Schumacher’s Ferrari as Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Vitantonio Liuzzi produced an overtake before Webber enjoyed a brief stint in the lead.

It would not last, transmission failure ruling him out, before Schumacher lost control of his car in a bid to catch Button and crashed, a rare error from the German.

The Safety Car then made a fourth appearance after Liuzzi also crashed, while Montoya had to retire after hitting a kerb so hard he activated his engine safety system.

Alonso was untroubled in the lead, though, and although Raikkonen did his best to push him in the latter stages, the former held on for victory.

Ralf Schumacher was well back in third and there was more drama, too, as Button, sitting fourth, had his car go up in flames in sight of the finish line in cruel fashion.

Alonso’s Melbourne triumph helped inspire a successful push for the world title, with the Spaniard engaged in a thrilling battle with Michael Schumacher for the duration of the season.

Both drivers won seven races, but Alonso finished with 134 points, compared to the 121 of his rival.

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