Formula 1 was submerged under the impassive yoke of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari at the beginning of the 2000s, and only a few timid approaches of McLaren with Kimi Raikkonen put in danger his hegemony of five consecutive seasons reaping the world title. However, starting in 2005 , everything changed, and a young man from a country where F1 was not so deeply rooted, Fernando Alonso , became the heir to the ‘ Kaiser ‘.
The Spaniard became the youngest world champion in history with Renault, but the German of the Prancing Horse , despite the fact that his eighth championship escaped him, the sixth in a row, came back stronger than ever to fight against the Spaniard in 2006 . This is how on October 8 , the two candidates arrived tied on points in the Japanese Grand Prix, with two appointments left to close a heart attack campaign.
The Suzuka circuit would be the stage where the title could be decided in favor of Schumacher, since his victory combined with an abandonment of Alonso would have given him his eighth crown, since the Spaniard could only tie in Brazil, but by winning less races, the German would continue ahead. Everything was put in the face of the seven-time champion, since in Saturday’s classification, his teammate, Felipe Massa , took pole position, while he was second and his rival from Renault barely reached fifth place, more than seven tenths of the best time of the session and with the two Toyotas, that of the very brother Ralf and that of Jarno Trulli, in the middle.
Despite this, the Spaniard was not giving up, but his chances diminished when Schumacher took the lead on lap three after overtaking the Brazilian’s second-placed Ferrari, while he could only overtake the Italian from Toyota. From there, only a miracle could revive Alonso in the world championship, even more so when he had the brother of his greatest rival and his teammate right between them.
And that miracle came, unexpectedly on lap 37 , when the Italian engine said ‘enough’ on arrival at the Suzuka tunnel. Schumacher had just left the pitlane after making what was to be his last pit stop for refueling in a 7.4-second stoppage, which still gave him enough of an advantage to retain the lead, while Alonso was second.
However, in the broadcast it was possible to see how a cloud of white smoke came out of the rear of the Ferrari 248 F1 , something that had not happened all year. In fact, the last withdrawal for mechanical reasons in the German’s engine dated from the 2000 French Grand Prix. That allowed the Oviedo Renault to position himself as the leader, both in the race and in the world championship, in one of the most iconic images of the history of Formula 1, in what was a kind of metaphor of the champion giving way to new generations.
Everyone on the wall of the Prancing Horse raised their hands to their heads, including his track engineer, Chris Dyer , who watched in disbelief as Schumacher’s eighth title slipped away for a dream retirement. After that, and after 53 laps believing in the impossible, Fernando Alonso crossed the finish line raising his finger celebrating what would be the 15th victory of his life in the Great Circus, with Felipe Massa and Giancarlo Fisichella as companions on the podium.
In Renault they could not be happier, and it could be seen in the gestures of Flavio Britatore , the director of the team at that time, as well as in the famous ‘little birds’ of the Asturian when he won a test. The moment he arrived at the Parc Fermé , he surprised everyone with the celebration of ‘the crane’, shortly before jumping the fence and running away as if he were imitating a horse walk to end up jumping on his mechanics.
Fernando Alonso still had to wait one more week to certify his two-time championship at Interlagos, where he said goodbye to the Enstone team with which he touched glory, although more than a goodbye it was a see you later , since his move to McLaren did not go as expected and he returned in 2008 to later make the leap to Ferrari. The rest is history.
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