The 2006 French Grand Prix will certainly not go down as a classic, but for Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, their fourth win of the season marked another important step in their bid to close the gap to Fernando Alonso and Renault in the drivers' and manufacturers' championships.

Schumacher looked dominant throughout the race at Magny-Cours on Sunday, leading from start to finish and never looking likely to be overhauled.

Early on, the German put in a string of fastest laps to pull out an advantage on Alonso, who was stuck behind the second Ferrari of Felipe Massa. Schumacher had built up a 30-odd second lead with around 20 laps to go and, as such, could ease off as the race entered its twilight.

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He eventually finished around ten seconds up on Alonso, to take his eighth win at the French Grand Prix, the first time a driver has ever managed to win a single event so many times in the history of the FIA Formula One World Championship. He also nibbled another two points off Alonso' advantage in the drivers' championship - reducing the margin from 19 points to 17 points.

It was the manner in which he took the victory though that will have Alonso concerned, as Fernando never looked in the slightest as if he could take the win himself. Furthermore, while a clever strategic decision to switch to a two-stopper allowed him to take the runners-up spot, all-in-all it was another less than convincing performance from him and the regie who, only two races ago, looked to have the championship pretty much sewn up.

Massa took the final spot-on the podium, a somewhat bitter-sweet result for the Brazilian who, until the final third, looked almost certain to take second. Massa held P2 off the line at the start and then did a brilliant job of protecting Schumacher, who drove off into the distance from pole. However, his three-stop strategy dropped him behind Alonso, and he eventually ended up more than twelve seconds adrift of the reigning champ at the finish - and 22.5 seconds off his team-mate.

His third gave Ferrari 16 constructors' points from the event though, while Renault took only eleven, bringing the gap down to 21 points with seven races to go.

Ralf Schumacher took fourth, as Toyota shone for the second race in a row. How much was to do with the Cologne-based squad improving though and how much was down to Bridgestone, who seemed to have the edge on Michelin, remains to be seen. Either way, Ralf drove well in the TF106B and deservedly took five points.

His team-mate, Jarno Trulli, also looked set to deliver and was running in front of Ralf until he was forced out just over the half distance mark. Mechanical problems ruined what would have been a double points haul for the team, but Ralf's five was still enough to put them ahead of BMW Sauber in the manufacturers', albeit by only one point.

Kimi Raikkonen was next up, fifth for McLaren-Mercedes, after putting in a solid drive in the MP4-21.

His new team-mate, Pedro de la Rosa, also scored in the sister car, the Spaniard coming home in seventh on his first outing since the Bahrain Grand Prix last year. It was an impressive performance from him after his late call-up to replace the NASCAR-bound Juan Pablo Montoya. de la Rosa would probably have finished higher too, if he hadn't had a poor start, something that dropped him behind Mark Webber's Williams. Although he seemed to be quicker than the Aussie, he couldn't find a way past and that heavily compromised his early pace and, ultimately, his whole afternoon.

Renault's Giancarlo Fisichella was sandwiched between the two McLarens in sixth after a relatively quiet day, while Nick Heidfeld scooped the final point for BMW Sauber, ahead of David Coulthard and Scott Speed, the latter shining in his restricted V10-powered Toro Rosso car. DC was unlucky to miss out on the last point and his two-stop strategy almost did the trick for Red Bull.

Of the rest, Jacques Villeneuve had to settle for a place just outside the top ten, never really recovering from a poor qualifying performance on Saturday, while Christian Klien and Vitantonio Liuzzi were twelfth and 13th respectively.

Nico Rosberg was 14th, the only Williams to make it to the flag, although he never had much of a chance to score after an engine penalty that meant he had to start from 19th.

The final classified finishers were Christijan Albers and Franck Montagny, the latter three laps down, but at least making it to the finish in front of his home crowd in what is likely to be his last race outing of the season in the second Super Aguri car.

Six drivers did not finish and, in addition to Trulli, both Hondas went out with engine problems, as the Brackely-based outfit continue to struggle. Rubens Barrichello managed 18 laps, while Jenson Button went out with only nine to go - neither happy with the performance of their cars.

Mark Webber was another high-profile victim, the Aussie forced to call it a day after problems with the bodywork on his FW28, which was apparently rubbing on one of his rear tyres, causing two punctures and ultimately forcing him out.

Midland's Tiago Monteiro and Super Aguri team leader Takuma Sato were the other two not classified, the latter going out on the first lap, while the former damaged his car after a spin, which pitched the Toyota-powered M16 into the air.

The F1 circus now heads to Hockenheim in two weeks' time for the German Grand Prix, where Schumacher and Ferrari will be eager to keep up the pressure on Alonso and Renault and even turn it up a notch or two.

One thing is for certain, Alonso and Renault don't look so comfortable anymore...