Sunday's European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring circuit may not have been an instant classic, nor even a particularly exciting event. It did, however, mark a significant turning point in the unfolding of the 2006 Formula One championships.
After the success at Imola two weeks ago, there was widespread feeling that Ferrari (or possibly their Bridgestone tyres) would fail to sustain winning form going forward. Schumacher's victory on Sunday marked not only his first back-to-back wins since Germany and Hungary 2004, the pair of victories were achieved using the same engine. Most importantly, Schumacher's victories, with Renault's Fernando Alonso following him closely into second on both occasions, have opened up daylight between the leading pair and the chasing pack.
Michael Schumacher celebrates winning the European Grand Prix in Parc Ferme © LAT
There was a time in F1 that such a gap could have been dismissed as a temporary advantage and an understandable consequence of early season turmoil as teams sorted out teething problems with new designs and regulations. That time is over. If a driver or team isn't in the championship frame five or six races into the season, the chances are that they won't be in the frame for the championship finale either.
Such is the professionalism of the current era that somebody is going to get it right all season long. In 2004, it was Schumacher and Ferrari. Last season, it was Alonso and Renault. On Sunday, the chase for the 2006 championship narrowed to these two again.