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Last Updated: Sunday, 1 October 2006, 05:15 GMT 06:15 UK
Chinese Grand Prix as it happened
Final positions after 56 laps:

1 M Schumacher (Ferrari)

2 Alonso (Renault)

3 Fisichella (Renault)

4 Button (Honda)

5 De la Rosa (McLaren)

6 Barrichello (Honda)

7 Heidfeld (BMW Sauber)

LATEST ACTION (ALL TIMES BST):

By Sarah Holt

Lap 56: The steadily falling rain does not matter for Schumacher as with a raise of his fist he claims his first - and last - victory in Shanghai. The win moves him level on points with Alonso but because the German has won seven races to Alonso's six he takes the championship lead for the first time this season.

There is also a last-gasp struggle for the points too as Button roars past Barrichello and then Heidfeld to take fourth. The bunched up traffic means Heidfield and Barrichello spin and De la Rosa comes through to sneak fifth with Barrichello sixth and Heidfeld seventh.

Lap 55: We are into the last lap now and the drivers are really struggling for grip as the rain falls more heavily again.

Lap 54: Button regains sixth spot from De la Rosa and he enjoys a little battle with team-mate Barrichello too to see if he can sneak more points.

Lap 53: There are three laps to go and the packed Grandstand crowd can see Alonso looming behind Schumacher down the straight as the gap is down to eight seconds.

Lap 52: There are four laps to go and Alonso is refusing to accept defeat, he pushes on again and reduces the gap to 11 seconds.

Lap 51: News filters through from the Renault garage that the reason they changed the tyres was because the front ones were badly fraying and there was no option. Rain is beginning to spot again in Shanghai and Ralf Schumacher will get back to his trailer a little earlier as he retires his Toyota.

Lap 49: Button runs wide and is overtaken by De la Rosa, who moves up into sixth place. There is disappointment for Coulthard too as he loses his grip on eighth place, conceding ground to Webber. Back at the front there are 12 seconds between Michael Schumacher and Alonso.

Lap 48: Fisichella moves out of the way to allow Alonso to chase down Schumacher - and is closing.

Lap 47: Alonso has closed the gap on Michael Schumacher to 15 seconds with another stunning lap of 1:38.443.

Lap 46: Massa retires from 9th after David Coulthard's Red Bull clatters into the side of the Ferrari in the battle for the last championship point.

Lap 44: Alonso is showing great tenacity and fires down another huge time. But if he wants to win the Grand Prix he has got to close the 20-second gap on race leader Michael Schumacher.
"Alonso has done nothing wrong but in my mind the team has let him down - they should have been braver and kept the same tyres on as they did with Fisi."
BBC Sport analyst and Honda test driver Anthony Davidson

Lap 43: Alonso is the first driver to break the 1:40 mark with his flying lap of 1:39.400 but has he rediscovered his pace too late?
"Alonso is the first man to go into the 1:39s but he has much more to do than that - and the mood Schumi is in then I don't think he'll do it."
BBC Sport analyst Maurice Hamilton

Lap 41: Fisichella has also returned to the pits and gets on the dry tyres too - but he is not able to get up to speed quickly enough and Schumacher just skips past him on the grass on the curb to take the lead.

Lap 40: Michael Schumacher comes into the Ferrari pits to pick up his slicks. The Ferrari driver had to act as Alonso is starting to rediscover his pace again.

Lap 38: Alonso is now trailing 54 seconds off his team-mate's lead down in sixth spot. Fisichella holds a 0.5 second lead over second-placed Michael Schumacher - and the Ferrari pits are readying themselves for action.

Lap 36: So the tyres - right, well most of the drivers have now switched to dry tyres now all except the leading trio of Fisichella, Schumacher and Heidfeld.

Lap 35: Alonso has come back to the pits to change his tyres and move on to slicks to suit the drying track. But the engineer makes a mistake when trying to fit his left rear tyre and Alonso - desperately trying to claw back time - has to sit through an 18-second pit stop. Mark Webber and Felipe Massa also come in for dry tyres.

Lap 34: Fisichella's decision not to change his tyres at his pit appears to have made a big difference to how the Renaults can perform.
"I think there is a five-lap window before you can get out there on the slick tyres."
BBC Sport analyst and Honda test driver Anthony Davidson

Lap 33: The Renault team have handed the responsibility to Fisichella to win the race and at least stop Michael Schumacher taking maximum points. The Italian has the pace and he sets a flying lap of 1:41.960.

Lap 31: Alonso is really struggling with his front grip and it is not long before Schumacher, primed like a hawk in his red Ferrari, pounces and overtakes the world champion to move into second.

Lap 30: Fisichella can no longer wait and he passes Alonso to retake the lead at the end of the lap.

Lap 28: The front three are agonisingly close now and Fisichella is having to defend Alonso's lead from the closing Ferrari. The tyre change - where he changed only the front intermediates and not the worn rear tyres - has clearly has not worked for the Renault champion. There is less than half a second between them now and the Ferrari flags are being waved from the stands.

Lap 26: Alonso seems to be really struggling with his Renault now and his lead is being eaten away by Fisichella and third-placed Michael Schumacher.
"Alonso has to keep focused on this race you cannot give Michael anything."
BBC Sport analyst and Honda test driver Anthony Davidson

Lap 25: Things are not going Kubica's way and the gamble does not appear to have paid off as his BMW-Sauber slips and slides around the track - and he comes back to the pits for a rethink on his rubbers.

Back at the front, Michael Schumacher has closed the gap on Alonso to just 11 seconds now.

Lap 24: Kubica comes into the pits and he is the first driver to gamble on dry tyres but does he have the grip?

Lap 23: The temporary race leader Fisichella comes into the pits but he does not take any new tyres. Robert Kubica has yet to make his stop and he has just set the new fastest lap of 1:44.072 in his BMW Sauber.

Lap 22: The Renault pits prepare for action and Alonso comes in for fuel and a new set of intermediate front tyres.

Lap 21: Ferrari prepare to receive a driver and in comes Michael Schumacher, who had closed the gap on Alonso to 19 seconds, from third. They stick with the same tyres.

Lap 20: Button has lost quite a bit of ground and he has faded back to ninth.

Lap 19: There is a lot of puttering and sputtering from Raikkonen's McLaren and he wheels it into the support pit lane, effectively putting himself out of the race.

Lap 18: Michael Schumacher is lapping half a second faster than Alonso at the minute and he has taken five seconds out of the Spaniard's lead.

Lap 17: Barrichello comes into the pits - but he does not pick up any new tyres either - and Pedro de la Rosa also calls into the McLaren pits.

Lap 16: Button is the first driver to come into the pits and Raikkonen soon follows - but he does not have his tyres changed even though the conditions are drying up. Meanwhile at the front, Alonso seems to lose concentration a little as he veers off track.

Lap 15: Raikkonen looks like the fastest man out on the Shanghai track and he sets the fastest lap of 1:44.287. Button is the first to come into the pits.

Lap 13: Michael Schumacher looms behind Button and creeps past him to move up into fourth - closing on the Renaults. On the same lap, Raikkonen passes Fisichella to move up behind Alonso.

Lap 12: The moisture on the track is lessening and here's what is happening with the big players. At the front, Alonso sets another fastest lap of 1:44.658 and he has a 15.6-second lead over Fisichella. But the drying track is turning the race in the favour of the Bridgestone runners' favour and Michael Schumacher is running almost as fast as Alonso now.

Lap 11: It is still pretty hazy in Shanghai but there have been no retirements so far.

Lap 10: Massa finally squeaks past Ralf Schumacher at Turn 16 to move up into 16 - so things are looking a little better for the Ferraris.

Lap eight: Michael Schumacher is finding a bit of fire under his Bridgestone tyres and he passes Barrichello to move up into fifth.

Lap seven: No great shakes from the second Ferrari Felipe Massa, who had to start at the back of the field because of a engine-change penalty. The Brazilian is down in 17th and trying to put some pressure on Ralf Schumacher. And when Massa does round the Toyota he immediately slides off the track at Turn 16.

Lap six: The Shanghai race has settled down a little at the front as Alonso continues to click over crucial seconds in the lead. Down the field, David Coulthard is struggling to keep Williams' Mark Webber at bay and eventually the Australian nips round the Scot at the bend to move up into 11th.

Lap four: Michael Schumacher is 13 seconds adrift of Alonso but the Ferrari man is not out of it and he begins to apply some pressure on Rubens Barrichello in fifth.
"The track is obviously drying out and Alonso is really starting to fly but are we getting to a point now where the Bridgestones will kick in?"
BBC Sport analyst Maurice Hamilton

Lap three: Alonso sets the fastest lap of the race so far in one minute 44.824 seconds as the race begins to settle down.

Lap two: Alonso has built up a massive four second lead over team-mate Fisichella while Schumacher is hanging on in sixth. Robert Doornbos sees his Grand Prix debut get off to a shaky start and he goes back to the Red Bull pits for a new nose cone.

Lap one: The front few manage to hold their positions from the green light. Alonso streaks away in his Renault followed by Giancarlo Fisichella. Button faces a battle to hold position from a looming Kimi Raikkonen and the McLaren easily passes him on the straight to move into third.

0703: We are off in Shanghai.

0700: Both Renaults, McLarens, Hondas and Michael Schumacher's Ferrari are all using intermediates as they fire off to warm up their tyres, trailing a plume of spray behind them.

0658: The drivers have put on their helmets on and are sliding into their cars as they prepare to head out for the parade lap in the grey haze hanging in the Shanghai air.

0651: There is an air of tension on the grid as the drivers prepare to race in tricky conditions. The drivers' will have to be at their most focused to cope with poor visibility and low grip. McLaren and Honda are using intermediate tyres. It is likely Renault will go that way too and engineering director Pat Symonds is confident the weather will suit their Michelins.

0630: With half an hour to go before the start, the cars leave the pits to form up on the dummy grid.

0610: It has been raining heavily in Shanghai and although it has stopped the circuit is soaked. The forecast is for unsettled weather, but the race will start on a wet track.

These conditions are expected to suit the teams using Michelin tyres, which is good news for Fernando Alonso and Renault and bad news for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, who use Bridgestone.

Jenson Button also excels in the wet, as he proved with his maiden victory in Hungary in August.


Build-up:

World champion Fernando Alonso appears to have the upper hand in his title battle with Michael Schumacher going into the Chinese Grand Prix, where he clinched his first crown with victory last season.

Alonso, who leads Schumacher by two points and has not won since Canada in June, starts from pole position, while Schumacher is back in sixth on the grid.

Fluctuating weather proved crucial in qualifying and conditions in Shanghai could play a big hand in dictating the outcome of the race.

The earlier practice sessions were much drier and Schumacher had a slight edge in the times, but when the rain fell in qualifying his Ferrari struggled to cope in the slick conditions.

The German was the only driver on Bridgestone tyres to break into the top 10 on the grid. The Michelins, used by Renault, Honda and McLaren, performed much better.

Schumacher admits his Ferrari is "simply not competitive" in rainy conditions. Rain is forecast for Shanghai on Sunday but there is only a slight chance of a downfall during the race itself.

Worryingly for Schumacher, Alonso also proved much more competitive than Schumacher in wet but drying conditions in Hungary in August.

The race will also have an important bearing on an equally finely poised tussle in the constructors' championship, in which Ferrari lead Renault by just three points.

Team-work - or a lack of it - could also be a contributing factor in Shanghai.

Alonso can rely on support from team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella, who lines up beside him on the front row of the grid.

But the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa starts at the back of the grid. The Brazilian qualified in 13th but had already received a 10-place penalty for changing his engine on Friday.

The Honda team must be working in perfect unison as both Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button qualified in the exact same time and line up on the grid behind the two Renaults.

Robert Doornbos makes his Grand Prix debut after replacing Christian Klien at Red Bull and he starts in an encouraging 10th place, ahead of his vastly more experienced team-mate David Coulthard.

The Shanghai circuit may be built on marshland but it is an architectural design feat, devised to meld Chinese history and modern technology.

The race, which made its debut in 2004, is run over 54 laps of the 3.387-mile track, on which there are 16 corners.

SEE ALSO
Alonso leaves Schumacher trailing
30 Sep 06 |  Formula One
China GP qualifying as it happened
30 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Rivals neck and neck in practice
29 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Albers retains drive with Spyker
29 Sep 06 |  Formula One
Shanghai, China
17 Feb 06 |  Circuit Guide


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