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Schumacher Wins in Shanghai and Takes the Championship Lead

An ecstatic Michael Schumacher won his first Chinese Grand Prix, taking the lead of the Drivers' Championship for the first time this season.

Renault's Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella came second and third respectively. Felipe Massa was forced to retire following an on-track incident.

Rain hit qualifying at Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday and this proved to be the deciding factor of the session. The Michelin-shod Renaults took front row of the grid headed up by Alonso. Despite the poor conditions Schumacher brought his Ferrari to sixth place and following an engine change Massa was allocated 20th place on the grid.

The arrival of race day brought more rain and this looked set to cause uncertainty over the 56 laps to come.

Under these treacherous wet conditions it was a cautious start by the drivers, initially without the dramatic line-up change we have come to expect in the first lap.

Spray and poor visibility added to the drivers' challenges. However as a dry line appeared, the race dynamics began to change.

Some drivers suffered but the Ferraris regained ground taking on the competitors ahead.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen had a splendid start moving from fifth to second position, only to be forced to retire on lap 19 because of a stuck throttle.

As the first round of pits stops loomed, pressure rested heavily on the teams' shoulders to make the right strategy decision and some faired better than others.

Alonso's pit stop saw his strong lead taken away from him. He struggled with his car when returning to the track, permitting his team-mate to take the upper hand and pass him.

It was then only a matter of time before Schumacher had moved up into third place just behind the two Renaults. Once Alonso was fully exposed to the Ferrari, Schumacher passed with ease into second position.

The on-track conditions continued to settle and at the second round of pit stops more vital decisions needed to be made. Although race leader Fisichella's smooth pit stop allowed him to rejoin the track in front of Schumacher, the Italian's inability to get up to speed, resulted in the Shell V-Power fuelled Ferrari waltzing past to take the lead.

Additional problems during Alonso's second pit stop meant he lost significant time. However with a late charge he set some of the fastest laps, taking chunks out of the lead and adding pressure on the two front runners ahead to up their game. His perseverance paid off, eventually seizing P2 from his team mate.

This was not enough and Schumacher cruised across the line to seal Ferrari and Shell's eighth victory of the season.

Mike Copson, Shell's Technical Manager, explained after the race: 'the rain in Shanghai this weekend took everyone in the Paddock by surprise. Racing in the rain can be a sterner test for the car as the engine goes through a wider speed range. However Shell fuel and lubricants are designed to work in a range of temperatures and conditions, so we were more than ready for this and we have a great result to show for it.'

Massa was unlucky. As the track dried, the Brazilian gradually moved up the field. With 11 laps remaining he collided with the Red Bull of David Coulthard as they were fighting for position and was forced to retire on the track side.

Although equal on 116 points, Schumacher takes the lead of the Drivers' Championship, as he has won seven races over Alonso's six. Renault regains the lead of the Constructors' Championship over Scuderia Ferrari by one point.

The excitement continues as there is now everything to play for at the penultimate Grand Prix of the 2006 season in Suzuka, Japan on 8th October.