Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher snatched a thrilling victory in the Chinese Grand Prix to take the world championship lead with just two races of the season remaining.
Schumacher’s first victory in Shanghai means he is now level on points with Renault driver Fernando Alonso, but is top having won one more race than the Spaniard this season.
Alonso’s bid to win the race was effectively ended by crucial errors in his pit stops, having first been left with little grips that left him chasing a huge gap, though he finished strongly to take second.
His team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella finished third while Jenson Button took fourth place and Pedro de la Rosa ended in fifth place.
Honda’s Rubens Barrichello and BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld took sixth and seventh while Williams’ Mark Webber took the final point in eighth place.
Alonso had made the ideal start as he stormed into the lead after the first lap. Button, who started in third was battling with Kimi Raikkonen while the rest of the leading group held their positions.
By the fourth lap Alonso was 13 seconds ahead of Schumacher, who was back in sixth as the Shanghai track started to dry out.
But Schumacher pushed on and passed Barrichello on lap seven as he strove to narrow the gap.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who had started at the back of the field because of an engine-change penalty, edged past Ralf Schumacher to move up into 16th on lap 10.
Michael Schumacher was picking up the pace and by lap 20 had moved up to third, having shaved valuable seconds off Alonso’s lead.
Button was the first of the early front runners to enter the pits on lap 13 as Raikkonen sets the fastest lap time of one minute 44.287 before he too made a pit stop.
Barrichello and de la Rosa pitted on lap 17 but two laps later Raikkonen was forced to retire from the race as his McLaren spluttered into the pits.
Alonso had slowed down considerably by lap 30 and team-mate Fisichella was forced to pass him into first before Schumacher also overtook the Spaniard.
Robert Kubica had set a fastest lap of 1:44.072 in his BMW Sauber on 23 before entering the pits to change to dry tyres.
But the gamble failed to pay off as he slid around on returning to the track, forcing him back into the pits one lap later.
Fisichella was handed the responsibility of trying to secure first place as things went from bad to worse for Alonso but on lap 41 he was overtaken by Schumacher.
Alonso spent 18 seconds in the pits on lap 35 and by 38 he was 54 seconds behind his team-mate.
Schumacher entered the pits for the first time on lap 40 to pick up his slicks but he was soon out to move into first place.
But by then, Alonso was back on form and five laps later he was the fastest driver on the track.
The rain hammered down in the final stages and though Alonso moved into second place with a few laps remaining, he just couldn’t manage to pip Schumacher.
Leading Positions after Race (56 Laps):
1 Michael Schumacher (Ger) Ferrari 1hr 37mins 32.747secs,
2 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:37:35.847,
3 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:38:16.847,
4 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda 1:38:44.747,
5 Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) McLaren 1:38:49.847,
6 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1:38:51.847,
7 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:39:04.647,
8 Mark Webber (Aus) Williams 1:39:16.247,
9 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull 1:39:16.447,
10 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap,
11 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams at 1 Lap,
12 Robert Doornbos (Ned) Red Bull at 1 Lap,
13 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber at 1 Lap,
14 Scott Speed (USA) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap,
15 Christijan Albers (Ned) Midland at 3 Laps,
16 Sakon Yamamoto (Jpn) Super Aguri at 4 Laps
17 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 49 Laps completed,
17 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 44 Laps completed,
19 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 38 Laps completed,
20 Tiago Monteiro (Por) Midland 37 Laps completed,
21 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) McLaren 18 Laps completed
Disqualified: Takuma Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri
Latest World Championship Standings after Chinese Grand Prix
1 Michael Schumacher (Ger) 116pts,
2 Fernando Alonso (Spa) 116,
3 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) 63,
4 Felipe Massa (Bra) 62,
5 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) 57,
6 Jenson Button (Gbr) 45,
7 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) 28,
8 Juan Montoya (Col) 26,
9 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) 22,
10 Ralf Schumacher (Ger) 18,
11 Pedro de la Rosa (Spa) 18,
12 David Coulthard (Gbr) 14,
13 Jarno Trulli (Ita) 12,
14 Jacques Villeneuve (Can) 7,
15 Mark Webber (Aus) 7,
16 Robert Kubica (Pol) 6,
17 Nico Rosberg (Ger) 4,
18 Christian Klien (Aut) 2,
19 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) 1
1 Renault 179pts,
2 Ferrari 178,
3 McLaren 101,
4 Honda 73,
5 BMW Sauber 35,
6 Toyota 30,
7 Red Bull 16,
8 William 11,
9 Scuderia Toro Rosso 1