It’s no secret that the Renault of Fernando
Alonso is the car to beat in this year’s Formula One championship. Before the
weekend however, a rejuvenated Michael Schumacher had shown he was still a
contender, finishing at the top of the field consistently enough to give
himself a chance at this year’s title and an eighth world driver’s
Well, that challenge suffered a major setback
on Saturday when Schumacher was pinged for cheating. According to race
officials, Schu deliberately stalled his car on the final corner during
qualifying to protect pole position.
Schumacher was found to have no justifiable
reason for braking so hard, that he had not done so on previous laps, and as a
contravention of race regulations, had his qualifying times deleted, putting
him at the back of the grid and Alonso in pole.
Ferrari rejected the finding, saying: “Such
a decision creates a very serious precedent, ruling out the possibility of
driver error.” But they were a lone voice, with other drivers and teams
publicly condemning Schumacher’s actions. Bernie Ecclestone said: “He would never get an Oscar for that one,” while Mark Webber offered his own
curious comparison. “I just feel you don’t have to do this
stuff. Why does it always have to happen? It’s like Mike Tyson biting someone’s
ear off, isn’t it?”
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Alonso won his fourth race of the season,
Juan Pablo Montoya came in second, with David Coulthard in third. Although
Schumacher was forced to start from position 22, he began the race with a full
tank of fuel and a new engine. By race end he was in fifth and had set the
fastest lap, proving that if he hadn’t been penalised he could have won the
Mark Webber might have thought his luck was
finally changing after a strong qualifying performance saw him start the race
alongside Alonso on the front row of the grid. Webber was overtaken by
Raikkonen after the first lap but held third position until almost lap 50 when
his car went up in flames … again. It’s his fourth non-finish of the year.
With eleven races remaining, Alonso holds a
21 point lead over Schumacher. Webber sits in equal twelfth in what’s turning
out to be another disappointing year.